The writing is on the wall; Frankenstein Israel must die! (even if the old order doesn't know it yet)
|Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish!|
February 4, 2011
U.S. Trying to Balance Israel’s Needs in the Face of Egyptian Reform
By HELENE COOPER and MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — The demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak’s government in Egypt are rocking the relationship between the United States and its most important Arab ally. But they are also rocking an even more fundamental relationship for the United States — its 60-year alliance with Israel.
Obama administration officials have been on the telephone almost daily with their Israeli counterparts urging them to “please chill out,” in the words of one senior administration official, as President Obama has raced to respond to the rapidly unfolding events.
But the crisis raises many questions about how the United States will navigate its relationship with Israel — in particular the balance between encouraging the development of a democratic government in Egypt and the desire in Washington not to risk a new government’s abandoning Mr. Mubarak’s benign posture toward Israel.
The unsettled outlook in Egypt has also scrambled American calculations about nurturing peace talks back to life between Israel and the Palestinians. And it has left both American and Israeli diplomats wondering about a broader regional realignment in which Israel would be left feeling more isolated and its enemies, including Iran and Syria, emboldened.
Israeli government officials started out urging the Obama administration to back Mr. Mubarak, administration officials said, and were initially angry at Mr. Obama for publicly calling on the Egyptian leader to agree to a transition.
“The Israelis are saying, après Mubarak, le deluge,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator. And that, in turn, Mr. Levy said, “gets to the core of what is the American interest in this. It’s Israel. It’s not worry about whether the Egyptians are going to close down the Suez Canal, or even the narrower terror issue. It really can be distilled down to one thing, and that’s Israel.”
A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said on Friday that administration officials were reassuring the Israelis that “we fully understand Israel’s security concerns, and we’re making clear that our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.”
Daniel Shapiro, a White House Middle East adviser, met on Tuesday with American Jewish leaders, and Mr. Obama talked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday.
But administration officials must also balance support for Israel against the real desire among many Egyptians — and others on the Arab street — for an end to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. “The situation tends to highlight Israel’s strategic value to the United States as a stable and unequivocal ally in a very unstable region,” said Michael B. Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington. He added: “The situation does reinforce the need for security guarantees, regarding a future Palestinian state, because we see how the current situation in the Middle East can change very rapidly.”
Supporters of Israel in the United States have been focusing on playing up the dangers they see as inherent in a democratic Egyptian government that contains, or is led by, elements of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, which opposes Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
In an e-mail on Friday to reporters and editors, Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC, the influential Jewish-American lobbying organization, suggested “questions to ask the Muslim Brotherhood & Their Allies.”
The first question on Mr. Block’s list: “Can the Muslim Brotherhood participate in a government where Egypt continues to fulfill Egypt’s obligations to Israel under the Camp David Accords?”
Obama officials say that the United States cannot rule out the possibility of engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood — the largest opposition group in Egypt — at the same time that it is espousing support for a democratic Egypt. If Egyptians are allowed free and fair elections, a goal of the Obama administration, then, administration officials say, they will have to deal with the real possibility that an Egyptian government might include members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
American Jewish leaders have also been voicing uneasiness about Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the atomic energy agency who is also part of the opposition to Mr. Mubarak.
Malcolm I. Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group, said that in his work as a nuclear watchdog, Mr. ElBaradei covered up Iran’s nuclear weapons capability in the reports issued by his agency.
“He is a stooge of Iran, and I don’t use the term lightly,” Mr. Hoenlein said in an online interview on Sunday with Yeshiva World News. “He fronted for them, he distorted the reports.”
But many American Jews are also debating the irony of Israel, which long promoted itself as the only democracy in its neighborhood, now voicing concerns about the birth of a democracy next door. And that that democratic movement is happening in Egypt — with all of its historic ties to the enslavement of the Jewish people — is being picked apart in conversations within American Jewish communities.
“I’ve been saying to my Israeli friends, ‘Come on guys, you’re supposed to be the national manifestation of a group of people whose story is the story of liberation from Egypt,’ ” said Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for The Atlantic who is the author of well-read blogs in the American Jewish community. But on the other hand, Mr. Goldberg said, “if you’re sitting in the Israeli Defense Ministry thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have to worry about my southern border now.’ ”
Administration officials say they are keenly aware that how they manage all of the conflicting fears, hopes and aspirations of Israelis and Egyptians could mean the difference between war and peace.
Mr. Levy, the former Israeli peace negotiator, said: “The problem for America is, you can balance being the carrier for the Israeli agenda with Arab autocrats, but with Arab democracies, you can’t do that.”