The Arab world is following with great interest the story of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as this would constitute an inexplicable affair within Arab societies and regimes. Why so? Because in the Arab world the leader is society and society is the leader, and therefore the dismissal of a leader is akin to bringing the whole of society down.
And yet, we can divide the Arab public into four groups in terms of their attitude to the dismissal of a serving prime minister in Israel. These different attitudes are also reflected in talkbacks on Arab websites.
- 1. The Anti-Semitic group – Members of this group view Jews stereotypically and claim that they are cheap and greedy, particularly when it comes to money that isn’t theirs. The common perception in this group is that Jews are manipulative and therefore also dangerous and unpredictable. “These are the Jews and this is their language,” wrote one Saudi woman.
- 2. The nationalistic group – Members of this group view this affair as further proof that Israel is crumbling and chocking on its own corruption, until it will disappear. It is roughly the attitude exhibited by Iranian leader Ahmadinejad. This approach argues that the Arabs don’t need to do a thing, as Israel will destroy itself, because it was born in sin. Ahmadinejad’s statements served to boost this group and provided it not only with legitimacy but also with apparent proof that it is right. This group is very powerful in the Arab world and very prevalent in the media, with every negative event in Israel prominently featured and played up. The negative aspects will always be emphasized as further proof of Israel’s expected collapse at any moment now. For example: A news story about the number of emigrants overtaking the number of immigrants here in the past year was quoted extensively on Arab websites and prompted writers to declare that the Israelis are finally fleeing.
- 3. The conspiratorial group – The notion that Israel’s leadership is dominated by an immense secret plot aimed at hurting the Arabs is very common in the Arab world. That is, every time we see diplomatic progress or a chance for an agreement, that same secret plot topples the prime minister or prompts new elections. “Every Israeli PM, as a condition for being elected, must have a criminal case at the Prosecutor’s Office. This case will remain closed as long as he kills Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. Yet if this PM considers peace with the Arabs or embarks on peace talks, the case against him opens,” wrote an Arab talkbacker.
- 4. The reformist group – Notably, most responses on the Olmert affair came from this camp. Members of this group are astonished not because of what’s happening in Israel, but rather, because the same thing will never happen in their own countries. In this group we certainly see jealousy of Israel, of its dynamic nature, and of its vitality. This group realizes that while in Israel the public controls its rulers, in the Arab world the rulers control the public. One surfer wrote: “If police in the Arab world could do what the Israel police did, then all the Arab rulers and their associates would be brought to court over bribery, corruption, and similar charges.” He added: “Transparency is the secret of Israel’s power.”
The fourth group is the one we should be counting on; this is our hope. This group will aspire to move closer to us, first and foremost in order to change its own society. It views Israel as a positive model for imitation and future cooperation. Indeed, even when it comes to such grave affair, there are still some rays of lights for Israel.