The most serious mistakes in the region have been made by the West back in the 1920s – and now, Obama the rookie is repeating them. In this region there are no friends – all we have is interests – and peace with Israel is in the Egyptian people’s interest.
The dust has not settled yet, but we can already draw initial conclusions: In our region there is no perpetual value to friendship and there is no commitment to relationships. Even though there is also no value to “signed agreements” with partners, we should not be concerned: Peace with Egypt shall persist.
Peace with Israel, as well as the restoration of stability in Egypt, is a supreme interest for the Egyptian people and for the ruler who will succeed Mubarak. As the current regime draws to an end we should keep in mind that only the pyramids lasted for thousands of years, and that Egypt may experience aftershocks and many changes of government in the coming years, yet the element that will have the most effect is the economy.
About a million babies are born in Egypt every nine months. One third of Egypt’s exports are in the form of tourism services, which have now plummeted to zero. Another 10% are exports to the United States that are mostly premised on the free trade agreements via Israel. The need for these 40% of exports ensures that whoever rules Egypt will not be violating the peace deal with Israel.
The events of the last days show how much power Israel has in our region. First, in respect to the US: Washington has great interests in the region. The dreams of developing alternative energy will take dozens of years to realize. Oil is essential to the global plastics industry and of course to vehicles, and it will therefore continue to be desired even when the readers of this article remind their grandchildren that once upon a time an alternative for oil was sought. Through all the changes that will take place in the Middle East, there is only one state the US can rely on due to shared interests and values: The State of Israel. The Europeans should also keep this in mind when they preach to us every day.
European mistakesThe mistakes made by the Europeans in the 1920s continue to produce instability in our region. Hassan al-Banna’s movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the murderous ideology of the Mufti Husseini emerged in those years. The mistakes started when the Europeans drew lines on a map and handed over “states” to kings they crowned. To this day we are contending with the artificial result of that period: “Saudi Arabia,” “Iraq,” and particularly Jordan, the “Hashemite kingdom” set up when the Brits brought a foreign ruler (from Hejaz) to govern land that only a few years earlier was promised by them to the Jewish people.
We also have great power vis-à-vis Egypt. We should not be afraid. The humiliating initiation ceremonies undertaken by Mubarak towards every Israeli leader who would rush to Egypt to curry favor and the phenomenon of being thankful for every Egyptian gesture would pass from this world. However, “Mubarakism” was not limited to Egypt alone: Israeli leaders tend to think in terms of “closeness,” “friendship,” “trust,” “personal ties,” and “Israel’s friends.” That’s a mistake. Look at Obama: He only operates in line with interests. The moment Mubarak was of no use to him, a 30-year friendship between the US Administration and the Egyptian leader was thrown to the dogs.
Instead of seeking “partners” for peace behind closed doors (and then rushing to tell our friends what some Arab official said in a hotel,) we would do well to understand that peace documents signed by transient leaders are worthless. On the other hand, there is great value to our economic power and ability to press other states, and particularly the Palestinian Authority, which is wholly dependent on us economically.
We must replace the search for partners and the gestures where we make concessions in order to “boost the moderates” with a policy whereby Israel disengages from the Palestinian Authority, from Egypt, from the United Nations or from anyone uninterested in ties with us – until the other side realizes it needs us.
The most important lesson from Egypt is that processes in the Arab world happen with no relation to the question of how much we “boosted” one leader or another. The longtime ingratiation vis-à-vis Mubarak did not help us or him. First we must care for our own interests on the Egypt border and towards the Gaza Strip, without asking ourselves: How would that affect the Mubarak regime? There is no longer a “Mubarak regime,” and in five years there may no longer be an “Abbas” or “Fayyad” or “Abdullah” – only the pyramids will remain forever.
Avi Trengo is a journalist
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