The Obama administration is helping negotiate the terms of Egyptian President Mubarak’s resignation. While we in this country might see this as advancing democracy in the Arab world, Israel is evidently under no such illusions. The Jewish State has witnessed the catastrophic result of so-called democratic elections in the Mideast with something less than joy. Iran ended up with an autocratic Islamic regime. Gaza elected Hamas and tossed out the more moderate Palestinian Authority, and Lebanon recently installed Hezbollah. There is certainly no guarantee that elections in Egypt would not empower the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mubarak, for all his many faults, has maintained the peace with Israel, kept Hamas bottled up in Gaza, and made war against Israel by its neighbors a practical impossibility, to the great benefit of both countries. Israel sees moves by the United States to speed Mubarak’s departure as foolish in the extreme. The idea that caught my attention in a recent Huffington post article was that Israel believes that the United States has confused the “mechanics of democracy”–a popular election–with the real thing–an open and vibrant political conversation, all parties represented, minority concerns protected, an impartial judiciary, honest police, civilian control of the military, fair tax collection.
They have a point, one that has been confirmed again and again by the unfortunate outcomes of recent regime changes in the Muslim world. The United States failed for thirty years to demand that Mubarak moderate his authoritarian rule as a price of our support, instead buying into the notion that the only choice was Mubarak or the Islamists he repressed. With his fall now imminent, our unwavering economic and military aid to an increasingly unpopular regime may well have made that assessment a self-fulfilling prophecy.