israel, egypt, america
Everyone seems to be happy about Egypt's mini-revolution, except maybe Mubarak himself . . . and a lot of Israelis. The fear is that the smiles in Tahrir Square will eventually give rise to an Islamic-oriented Government that is even less fond of Israel than its predecessor, and potentially more willing to act on its dislike. The outgoing Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, said what many Israelis were thinking: in the Middle East stability is better than democracy--at the very least, it's better for our interests.
There's something to this, of course, but I think it's more of a mixed bag than many people think. For one thing, the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was never based on love, but on self-interest. Having from its perspective won the last Egypt-Israel War, in 1973, Egypt has a lot to lose and not terribly much to gain from renewing it.
It's also not clear that democracy always works out badly for Israel. The most commonly cited example is Turkey, whose Islamic parties are less comfortable with Israel than its secular elite, and of course Iran, which turned sharply against Israel after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. But Iran isn't a democracy and--while Turkey often talks like an enemy--nobody really expects to see Turkish soldiers on Israel's border anytime soon. If it succeeds in creating an Islamic-influenced democracy, a la Turkey, and still maintaining a stable if less than friendly peace with Israel, Egypt might offer an alternative example for the entire Middle East, one ultimately not all bad from Israel's perspective.
If I were the Israeli prime minister, I would be less worried about the strategic threat than the political one. Thirty years ago most Americans saw the Middle East through Israeli eyes. Now Egypt is a fledgling democracy; Emirates is one of the world's largest airlines; and hundreds of thousands of Americans have served time in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan. In this situation many Americans--including some Jews--are already beginning to see the Middle East through Arab- rather than Israeli-colored glasses. TV and movies regularly picture Israelis as exotic, attractive, but not especially likable. Sooner or later, this kinds of stuff affects people's attitudes toward political questions, as well. Better to be feared the liked, one might respond; but are those the only two choices?