Israelis criticize Obama's overnight abandonment of Mubarak, warn of Islamic takeover like in Iran

02/01/2011 10:20

From Israel Insider

Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu's demand that senior Israeli government officials keep quiet regarding events in Egypt, some have begun expressing deep concern at what they view as the hypocritical abandonment by the US of a longtime ally once he seemed to be in trouble. The general feeling here is that America's  push for a democratic government will lead to an Islamist regime even worse on issues like human rights and freedom than Hosni Mubarak. Deputy Minister for Galilee and Negev Development Ayoub Kara (Likud) told visiting former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a likely Republican US presidential candidate, that Obama needed to understand that "if the Egyptian government will fall, the Muslim Brotherhood will take its place, and that will cause even worse problems not only for the Middle East, but for the whole world,” he said.

Yediot Aharonot columnist Eitan Haber, who was a top aide to Yitzhak Rabin, said the US turnabout sends a dreadful message to Israel. Obama threw Mubarak “to the dogs,” Haber wrote in a column that appeared on Monday. “America, which waves the banner of ‘citizens rights,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘freedom of information,’ turned its back in a day on one of its most important allies in the Middle East. Alluding to the story of Esau and Jacob, Haber said that "Obama sold Mubarak for the pot of lentils of popularity among the Egyptian masses,” adding that the US president did this without a true understanding of the Middle East. “Our conclusion in Israel needs to be that the man sitting in the White House is liable to ‘sell’ us over night. The thought that the US might not stand by our side in the day of need causes chills. God help us.”

This theme was also picked up by former Mossad head Danny Yatom, who said in an Israel Radio interview that the US treatment of Mubarak was a dangerous message to Washington’s allies in the region – including Israel – that they could not rely on America. Yatom contrasted Obama's unwillingness to support the opposition in Iran when it took to the streets against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the summer of 2009 with his readiness to toss aside the "important relationship” between the US and Egypt. “The way Obama and Hillary Clinton abandoned Mubarak at once is very problematic, and I think hints to other allies – for instance Israel – that these things can happen under certain grave circumstances to us as well, and to others.”

Israel's President Shimon Peres offered support for Egypt's President, without sanctioning his domestic policies. "We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak," he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. "I don't say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East."

Newspaper columnists were more blunt. Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv, in a piece entitled "A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam." It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks. Who is advising them, he asked, "to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president ... an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?" He said "The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations ... is painfully naive."

Many commentators compared Obama's approach to Egypt with Carter's approach to the Shah's Iran. In a conversation with Ynet, Prof. Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US policy from Bar Ilan University, said "He's doing what Carter did when he tried to meet with Khomeini. It happened also in Lebanon, when the Americans thought they would 'expel the Syrians,' and also in Gaza. These were all done under a wrong misconception, which eventually influences us," he said. 

Gilboa recommended that Israel take precautionary measures and "think over" our relations with Washington, despite the support in congress and positive public opinion. Barack Obama stabbed Mubarak in the back and has already turned his back on Israel once, and therefore we must "take a good look into the future. We must develop our foreign relations with the rising powers – India, with whom we already have military cooperation, and China. However, we must also focus on improving our complex relations with Europe," he added.

"All of the United States' Middle Eastern allies will have to think things over, and Israel loses here as well, because Iran will consider this as another Iranian victory, just like any other blow to the United States. "Obama's shortsightedness might change the world order by serving Iran's interest – which is to change the regimes in the regional countries that are still moderate. Not to mention a situation in which there is a nuclear Iran and the United States is completely out of the Middle East," Gilboa noted. However, he stressed that there is also some room for optimism. "We have a democracy, and our stocks may even rise in Washington because Israel is stable, and the only one that can be trusted in the Middle East. "In addition, the American public opinion is on our side – some two thirds of the public supports Israel, and in the congress the biggest agreement is over issues revolving Israel," he concluded.

Even Netanyahu appeared to be opening up in his own implicit criticism of the American and European moves, speaking out in a press conference with German PM Angela Merkel: ""Our real fear is of a situation that could develop ... and which has already developed in several countries including Iran itself -- repressive regimes of radical Islam,"he said. "In a situation of chaos, an organized Islamist body can seize control of a country. It happened in Iran. It happened in other instances".


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