An official says the Jewish state has faith in the security apparatus of its most formidable Arab neighbor, Egypt, to suppress the street demonstrations that threaten the dictatorial rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The harder question is what comes next.
“We believe that Egypt is going to overcome the current wave of demonstrations, but we have to look to the future,” says the minister in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel enjoys diplomatic relations and security cooperation with both Egypt and Jordan, the only neighboring states that have signed treaties with the Jewish state. But while it may be more efficient to deal in with a strongman in Cairo — Mubarak has ruled for 30 years — and a king in Amman, democracies make better neighbors, “because democracies do not initiate wars,” he says.
“Having said that, I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.”
The minister, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name or portfolio, cites the Gaza Strip as a signal warning of the risk that comes with asking the people what they want. The seaside territory, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, elected the militant Islamist group Hamas in a 2006 election that had been urged by George W. Bush, when the president was casting the invasion of Iraq as a mission to bring democracy to the Middle East.