Middle East’s only democracy continues to oppose more democracy


by Sunny
31st March, 2011 at 6:00 pm    

Hey look, Israel is still rooting for Middle Eastern dictators:

As popular unrest threatens to topple another Arab neighbor, Israel finds itself again quietly rooting for the survival of an autocratic yet predictable regime, rather than face an untested new government in its place.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s race to tamp down public unrest is stirring anxiety in Israel that is even higher than its hand-wringing over Egypt’s recent regime change. Unlike Israel and Egypt, Israel and Syria have no peace agreement, and Syria, with a large arsenal of sophisticated weapons, is one of Israel’s strongest enemies.

“Officially it’s better to avoid any reaction and watch the situation,” said Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the Defense Ministry’s policy director. He predicted Assad’s regime would survive the unrest.

This of course comes not long after the Israeli government was loudly hoping that Hosni Mubarak would stay in power. Seems like they’re really interested in democracy spreading to the Middle East aren’t they?


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  1. Mark — on 31st March, 2011 at 6:03 pm  

    Eh?
    This tiny state (smaller than Wales) faces constant bombardment – and you think they should do something other than hope that whoever has their finger on the button won’t attack their population.
    Bizarre.

  2. Don — on 31st March, 2011 at 6:13 pm  

    We have yet to establish that democracy is the likeliest outcome once the dust settles. I can see how Israel would value predictability in its neighbours.

    Personally I remain optimistic that the events of this year will turn out well, but then I can afford to be optimistic. My arse is not on the line.

  3. Sarah AB — on 31st March, 2011 at 6:31 pm  

    What Don said!

  4. KB Player — on 31st March, 2011 at 6:32 pm  

    Hmm – well I suppose Israeli democrats who greeted democracy in Iran in 1979 were sorely disappointed. They got a virulently anti-Israeli (and anti-Semitic) state instead.

    Of course a country like Israel is going to be nervous at such upheaval with its neighbours. It’s hammered out an uneasy peace with them at the moment. There’s the quite terrifying prospect of an Islamist government – which nearly happened in Algeria in the 1990s. So like every nation state it looks out to its own interests. It may end up living harmoniously with democratic neighbours. Or it may not. The “may not” could be catastrophic for it.

    Did you hear the Syrian ambassador saying last night that Israel was behind the protesters in Syria? Israel does shitty things – but it’s given the credit for doing every shitty thing that happens in the Middle East. Do you think that kind of mud doesn’t stick?

  5. Wibble — on 31st March, 2011 at 9:50 pm  

    “There’s the quite terrifying prospect of an Islamist government – which nearly happened in Algeria in the 1990s.”

    Luckily the Algerian military was on hand to cancel the elections and protect the populace from themselves.

  6. Refresh — on 31st March, 2011 at 11:45 pm  

    I think Israel needs a jolt so it can recognise the wasted years from Oslo onwards.

    Don, I don’t accept that Israel seeks predictability. It needed a two-faced regime in all its neighbours. One for its population and another for the Israelis.

    The master of the art, Kissinger, in a televised interview, had to tell Netanyahu to keep quiet about Hosni Mubarak.

    Israel would have been in a much better position trying to communicate with the peoples of the neighbourhood instead of wasting their legendary statecraft on undermining US administrations.

  7. douglas clark — on 31st March, 2011 at 11:55 pm  

    KB Player @ 4,

    There’s the quite terrifying prospect of an Islamist government – which nearly happened in Algeria in the 1990s.

    If people are willing to surrender their voting rights in favour of their religious masters then hell mend them, because, in this world that is where they were going….

    Kinda of an Iranian outcome without the violence.

    Doesn’t seem to me that that is happening elsewhere in the ME right now.

    But, apart from their own stupidity in voting for it, to whom else would it have been terrifying? They are perfectly entitled to be completely off their trolley. It would have set their country back a long way, but heh, they can do that if they want.

    Not particularly keen on the whole idea of it being a forever referendum right enough.

  8. cjcjc — on 1st April, 2011 at 7:04 am  

    Always time in one’s busy day for a dig at Israel.

    Of course, given the Syrian ambassador’s line and the rampant antisemitism prevalent across the region, it’s obvious that Israeli encouragement is going to be *so* helpful to the democrats (if such they be), isn’t it?

  9. cjcjc — on 1st April, 2011 at 7:05 am  

    “hell mend them, because, in this world that is where they were going….”

    great turn of phrase

  10. cjcjc — on 1st April, 2011 at 7:09 am  

    Meanwhile

    Yemen: Al Qaeda Declares South Province As “Islamic Emirate”

    ““From now on, women who go out to the markets need to be accompanied by a relative, who carry a proof by identity cards, or passports,” it said.”

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/yemen-al-qaeda-declares-south-province-as-islamic-emirate-31032011/

  11. cjcjc — on 1st April, 2011 at 8:27 am  
  12. Trofim — on 1st April, 2011 at 8:34 am  

    Hang on cjcjc, he’s said something nice about Britain. That shows he’s a bastard.

    “Israel was born under the British mandate. We learned from the British what democracy means, and how it behaves in a time of danger, war and terror. We thank Britain for introducing freedom and respect of human rights both in normal and demanding circumstances. It was a great lesson and a necessary one for a country such as Israel, which has been attacked seven times in the 63 years of its existence without compromising democracy and without giving up our quest for peace”.

  13. MaidMarian — on 1st April, 2011 at 9:13 am  

    Maybe – but all this (and much of the comment) works on the assumption that a ‘democratic’ (whatever that might mean in practice) middle east/north Africa would all go and vote for war on Israel and the US. Is that true? It didn’t look that way in Egypt or at least not in any serious way.

    Granted, when Bahrain falls we will see people hanging from cranes within hours and no grand prix (though Sakir is an awful track – no loss) but would that necessarily translate into an actively war-like policy to Israel?

    Serious question – Would the people in the region have a big rush to war or is it more nuanced?

  14. Awakening Tempest — on 1st April, 2011 at 9:33 am  

    Israel is a hub for the west in the Middle East, its economy is driven by American tax payer and who military arsenal is provided un-audited by the US. This is not an assumption but facts. The land in on which the dream of Israel is built on is stolen from the Palestinians using canning political stunts using British Mandate to force the Palestinians to accept them, why were they not given a safe haven in Europe or did the French and British know how much trouble they would cause being to close to home?

  15. cjcjc — on 1st April, 2011 at 10:03 am  

    @14 you are the Syrian ambassador and I claim my £5

  16. MaidMarian — on 1st April, 2011 at 10:05 am  

    Awakening Tempest – You are Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and I claim my £5.

  17. Boyo — on 1st April, 2011 at 10:22 am  

    How very disengenuous of you Sunny, I don’t know why you persist. I’d like to credit you with more intelligence than that. Plus what Don said at 2…

  18. Sunny — on 1st April, 2011 at 10:37 am  

    I don’t think its just that Israel wants predictability.

    The uncomfortable fact for its supporters is that it does need dictatorships around the Middle East. This is because dictators are not only easy to negotiate with, but also willing to ignore public opinion. And part of the reason Israel has been able to get away with repressing Palestinians is that it is surrounded with dictators who have tacitly worked with it (in Egypt, Saudi Arabia).

    If those countries were not dictatorships, the democratically elected govts would not only have to stop cooperating with Israel repression, but US endorsement of that repression. It would make life difficult for the US and Israel.

  19. MaidMarian — on 1st April, 2011 at 10:48 am  

    Sunny –

    ‘The uncomfortable fact for its supporters is that it does need dictatorships around the Middle East.’

    No it does not. Even if I were to take a vote to rush to war as somehow, ‘democratic,’ I see no reason why a dictatorship is somehow de facto more war-like.

    ‘This is because dictators are not only easy to negotiate with,’

    Really? That is a breath-taking statement.

    ‘but also willing to ignore public opinion.’

    Perhaps to a point. But haven’t you spent the past five years telling us how democratic governments also ignore public opinion?

    ‘And part of the reason Israel has been able to get away with repressing Palestinians is that it is surrounded with dictators who have tacitly worked with it (in Egypt, Saudi Arabia).’

    So what are you saying here – Israel has no legitimate security concern? Of course if these other countries all liked Palestinians that much they could just throw open their borders to the Palestinians. That they do not do so is telling.

    ‘If those countries were not dictatorships, the democratically elected govts would not only have to stop cooperating with Israel repression, but US endorsement of that repression. It would make life difficult for the US and Israel.’

    So making life difficult for Israel and the US is the agenda here, rather than a clamour for democratic rule?

  20. jamal — on 1st April, 2011 at 3:49 pm  

    The state of israel has not much to be worried about.

    Egypt has the same structure in place and the same old old faces except for mubarak of course.

    Tunisia business as usual, change a face or two and on we go.

    What will be interesting is when israel launches another operation murder arabs in not too distant future. What will the british and american reaction or excuses be, now a precedence has been set for libya.

  21. Refresh — on 2nd April, 2011 at 4:57 am  

    MaidMarian

    Its not about rushing to war but more to do with what the people of the region will tolerate from Israel.

  22. Boyo — on 2nd April, 2011 at 9:07 am  

    “And part of the reason Israel has been able to get away with repressing Palestinians is that it is surrounded with dictators who have tacitly worked with it (in Egypt, Saudi Arabia).”

    I may be wrong, but didn’t Egypt launch war(s) against Israel under Nasser, who had much popular support?

    I’m afraid the result of the democratic will of the people, who have been subject to decades of anti-Israeli propoganda by their despots to excuse their own failings, is more likely to be war. Has anything really changed – I mean, I don’t see the “Arab street” becoming more liberal since 67…

    That’s not to “exuse” Israel, which has, as the level-headed among us agree, much to answer for, but I don’t think democracy is likely to bring a peaceful resolution. Democracy, remember, also brought us Hitler. And before I get leaped on, i don’t think that’s likely (the sounds coming from the moderate MB seem to envisage Turkish Islamism as a model) yet, I can understand why Israel is jumpy…

    In any case it’s the US that has really kept Israel going, along with the resolve of its people. I can’t see either changing.

    (Late edit) Okay, I see you said partly. Ok, fair enough, but as above – one of the key things we are perhaps all missing is the role of the economy in determing the direction of democracies, and let’s face it, that could go either way…

  23. Refresh — on 2nd April, 2011 at 11:03 am  

    Boyo,

    The last 40 years has been entirely in the control of Israel. The last Arab/Israeli war was back in 1973.

    The general consensus is that its policies have been a failure and it has operated in a vacuum where the most important voice, that of the people of the neighbourhood, has been made absent.

    The state of Israel is no better than any of the dictators of the region who have been in power for 40 years themselves and delivered nothing.

    It is also insufficient that the anti-Israeli propaganda is laid at the door of the dictator. It had served both parties well. Israeli propaganda has been aimed entirely at the western public, hence the position we are in.

    I recall seeing a poll which showed a significant majority of people here actually thought the Palestinians were the occupiers – a bit like your local council chasing off travellers from a favourite picnic spot. That is some propaganda coup.

    Israel has made no effort, and did not feel the need to explain itself to the people of its neighbourhood.

    What you have to ask is what did it do for Oslo, apart from murder its own premier?

  24. Boyo — on 2nd April, 2011 at 8:31 pm  

    @23 I don’t disagree with the spirit of what you say. TBH on I/P I’m wary of taking sides, which is why I’ve actually been labeled an “ultra-zionist” or some such by the banned munir/muslim/blah on these threads of late.

    I’m with Sunny in that I’d like to see a 2 state solution, return to 67 borders, shared capital etc, and personally believe the US should threaten to turn off the tap unless Israel agrees. However, I can’t wave away the 2000 years of brutalisation that helps explain the Israeli attitude, so I’ve no desire to join the witch hunt either. From a country that’s just joined in the massacre of up to 1 million Iraqis it seems a bit rich to keep picking on the Jews – but I guess that’s always been the Christian way.

    Sure criticise the apartheid state, but don’t forget Kurdistan, or Zimbabwe, Iran etc. I mean am I alone in finding it absurd with the acres spent slagging off Israel while the luvvies lap up Press TV, the mouthpiece of a state that’s recently strung up dozens of innocent young dissidents, and buggered them in their hundreds?

    The silence is deafening.

  25. douglas clark — on 2nd April, 2011 at 10:39 pm  

    Boyo,

    Sure criticise the apartheid state, but don’t forget Kurdistan, or Zimbabwe, Iran etc. I mean am I alone in finding it absurd with the acres spent slagging off Israel while the luvvies lap up Press TV, the mouthpiece of a state that’s recently strung up dozens of innocent young dissidents, and buggered them in their hundreds?

    No, you are not alone.

    I find myself between a rock and a hard place whenever the Middle East is discussed on here.

    That is what the various bits of public relations / propaganda mouthpieces are all about is it not? trying, desperately to suborn your opinion?

    Frankly, they would all get on a lot better if they strung every PR guy from an available lamp post. For these people have an investment in conflict that pay’s their wages.

    It is that bloody simple.

  26. AbuF — on 3rd April, 2011 at 9:57 am  

    I think that is a very balanced comment, Boyo.

  27. Jemmy Hope — on 3rd April, 2011 at 12:56 pm  

    Al Qa’ida, Islamic government, red menace, yellow peril, bogeyman.

    Ilan Pappé uses the term “Herrenvolk democracy” in this interview -
    http://counterpunch.org/barat04012011.html

  28. irrelephant — on 4th April, 2011 at 1:48 pm  

    I think it’s pretty rich to expect Israel to somehow be for anything that might threaten its security. why shouldnt it be worried that tacitly friendly dictators would be replaced by hostile democracies?

    sometimes it’s better the devil you know…

  29. Soso — on 4th April, 2011 at 2:08 pm  

    And part of the reason Israel has been able to get away with repressing Palestinians is that it is surrounded with dictators who have tacitly worked with it (in Egypt, Saudi Arabia).

    Israel responds, as it has a right to, to unprovoked attacks from Islamist militants hiding out in the territories.

    Self-defense isn’t repression.

    If you’re looking for repression, try talking to Palestinians livingin Syria who are now going on their fourth generation being forced to live in camps and wjho have yet to obtain syrian citizenship.

    Palestinain’s own Arab kith and kin keep them in a state of permenent poverty, and yet it’s Israel that’s doing all the repression.

    Were Assad to go and elections held, those ‘Palestinians’ might stand a good chance at obtaining their syrian citizenship.

  30. irrelephant — on 4th April, 2011 at 2:21 pm  

    “Israel responds, as it has a right to, to unprovoked attacks from Islamist militants hiding out in the territories.”

    firstly the idea that attacks are completely unprovoked is naive.

    secondly the question is does it respond proportionately and intelligently?, has it’s responses improved or deteriorated it’s position?

  31. jamal — on 4th April, 2011 at 5:18 pm  

    soso

    unprovoked attacks???

    if i kick you out your house and slap your mother will you still be saying it is unprovoked?

  32. jamal — on 4th April, 2011 at 5:18 pm  

    .

  33. cjcjc — on 5th April, 2011 at 6:31 am  
  34. Jemmy Hope — on 5th April, 2011 at 10:30 am  

    “Nothing on the Goldstone retraction?” (cjcjc)
    Try Mustafa Barghouthi, here -
    http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m76497&hd=&size=1&l=e

  35. Jemmy Hope — on 5th April, 2011 at 10:49 am  

    “The headline about Goldstone should be this: An Apartheid Era Judge Endorses Israeli Apartheid’s war crimes.”
    As’ad AbuKhalil at http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/04/goldstone.html

  36. cjcjc — on 5th April, 2011 at 10:57 am  

    Hahahaha – I don’t recall that observation being made at the time!

    Desperate.

  37. Jemmy Hope — on 5th April, 2011 at 12:38 pm  

    Hahahasbara.

  38. cjcjc — on 5th April, 2011 at 5:43 pm  

    Even more desperate.

    But I see you live in Hull so I can understand why.

  39. Jemmy Hope — on 5th April, 2011 at 6:53 pm  

    You sneer at my home town. Something else to pontificate on and demonstrate your ignorance and bigotry. I’m at a disadvantage here, never having been to Cloudcuckooland. Though I can’t believe you ever visited Hull. You see it’s a twat-free zone.

  40. joe90 — on 8th April, 2011 at 8:00 pm  

    Love the desperation of israeli government and how far it goes to in order to not be branded a racist arab killing state because that is what it is!

    bombed people in Sudan this week and then they claim we never attack our neighboring states lol

    http://www.edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/04/06/sudan.israel.airstrike/index.html

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