Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Arab revolutions and the Israeli role | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Responding to the ongoing demonstrations that are taking place in a number of cities, Syrian officials spoke of a conspiracy against the country, hinting that Israel were behind this, due to Syria’s “national role.” The intimations of a conspiracy were mentioned several times by President Bashar al-Assad in his recent speech in which he said that there is significance in the city of Deraa being chosen as the starting point for anti-governmental demonstrations. The message was made even clearer during the pro-government demonstrations that were mobilized by the regime, with some demonstrations raising a huge banner that read “Down with Israeli Mossad and its dogs!”

There are two problems with this approach. Firstly, the demonstrations have spread throughout a number of Syrian cities, and huge numbers of people have taken part in these, so does Mossad have this many “agents” in Syria? If Syria has been infiltrated to this degree, then the demonstrations pale in comparison to the crisis that the regime is facing in this regard. Secondly, in his speech, the Syrian President mentioned that a reform program was put forward more than five years ago, but these reforms were not put in place, so is this also an Israel conspiracy?

Prior to this, we heard Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh saying that the popular uprising against him was being run from “an operations room in Tel Aviv…that is run by the White House.” However Saleh soon retracted his accusation against Washington and apologized to the US after it complained about his statement. We do not know if this apology also included a retraction of his accusation against Israel as well, although it would be better for him to offer an apology to his own people who he described as being a tool in the hand of Israel, describing their demands for their legitimate rights, freedom, and dignity, as being a foreign conspiracy.

Does anyone believe that Israel is supporting the Arab revolutions and uprisings, and wants to see real democracies in the region?

The truth is that Israel is greatly concerned, and this is something that it is not hiding, about the “Arab spring” and the changes that it has brought so far, and the changes that it will bring in the days to come. Israel is not concerned with the talk about chaos or a [political] vacuum, but rather the talk about Arab democracies, and the enthusiasm being shown by Western states, particularly the US, about this issue. Israel continues to boast of being the only democracy in an ocean of authoritarian regimes in the region, and has suggested that Arab and Islamic values are incompatible with freedom and democracy. What Israel fears the most is Washington moving closer to Arab states in order to support the democratic transformation, and putting pressure on Tel Aviv to put forward a serious initiative to move the stalled Palestinian – Israeli peace process. Many Western states believe that the loss of allied regimes like those of Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali could be compensated by the emergence of new, popular, and effective democratic regimes, and that the climate of freedom may help to curb violent extremism.

Whilst the West is optimistic about the Arab transformation which it regards as an opportunity that must be supported, rather than feared for potentially causing a [political] vacuum – Israel seems wary of the transformations it is witnessing in the region. For Israel would rather deal with individuals or despotic regimes, rather than democratic regimes that respond to the voters’ opinions and public pressure, particularly after it has seen that the peace agreements that were signed with Egypt and Jordan have failed to result in complete normalization of relations due to the opposition of public opinion. This is because the public has witnessed the ongoing Israeli occupation of Arab lands and their continued aggression towards the Palestinians.

Therefore, it was not odd to hear voices in Israel criticizing Washington for abandoning its allied regimes on the basis that this would jeopardize peace. We also saw Israel taking actions immediately following the Egyptian revolution successfully ousted Mubarak, demanding that any new regime in Cairo abide by the peace agreements signed between the two countries. As popular uprisings spread throughout the Arab world, Israeli politicians and analysts began to talk about “the illusion of Arab democracy.” Some explicitly stated that the Arab world is not capable of transitioning towards democracy, and that if Washington supports the Arab revolutions and uprisings, it would lose its allies, whilst democracy would fail to establish a foothold in the region, with the exception, of course, of Israel.

In seeking to stir up fear against the Arab uprisings, Israel has warned that the collapse of totalitarian regimes will lead to [political] vacuum and chaos, warning that Arab democracy will see religious extremists come to power, and that this will have disastrous consequences to Israel, as well as to the West. Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said that democracy in the Middle East will “make this area look like hell.” Whilst other Israeli officials have said that this democratic transformation will be a repeat of the Hamas experience in Gaza. It is strange that Israel is focusing on the threat that extremists represent to the democratic experience in the Arab world, whilst at the same time it seems to have forgotten that it has extremists and racists in its own political parties who can enter the Knesset, participate in government, and impose their agenda.

For her part, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni put forward her vision in Washington and in other Western capitals, introducing “regulations” that political parties that want to engage in the political process must abide by. These parties must agree to abide by a set of principles considered “principles of a free world.” Detailing her proposals, Livni summed these up by saying that any political party that wants to participate in the democratic process should refrain from violence, act to achieve its objectives peacefully, abide by the law, and accept international treaties signed with other countries. It is apparent that these principles target the Arab world and were primarily put in place to protect Israel, rather than to protect Arab democracy, which Tell Aviv rejects and regards as a genuine threat to its future. Very few voices emerged to say that Israel will not be protected by dictatorial regimes, but rather though genuine peace agreements.

Israel is conspiring against the Arab world on many issues, but we can certainly be certain that it is not conspiring to support revolutions or demand democracy. Israel prefers stability and the status quo, because it has already adapted itself to the peace equation with the existing despotic regimes, rather than the people of the region. The talk we are hearing in some of our Arab capitals about an Israeli conspiracy is an insult to the people and their demands for freedom and dignity. The people no longer believe the saying that ‘ there is no sound louder than the sound of the battle’, for they have seen that this slogan has not brought any victories against Israel, but rather produced despotic regimes that seek to have life-long presidencies, with power even being bequeathed to their children. The real battle today is the battle for freedom and reform, the elimination of corruption and protecting the dignity and rights of citizens.