Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are Bad News for Israel

Last week's ouster of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali and wide scale protests across Egypt  are nationalist uprisings rather than the work of Islamic fundamentalists,  But that is precisely the reason Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet must be watching events with growing alarm.

Egyptian protestors are calling for the ouster of President Hosmi Mubarak, who came to power in 1981 after a young assassin killed Anwar Sadat, to avenge the Egyptian president's recognition of Israel.  Islamic fundamentalism exploded onto the Middle East political scene after the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the coming to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini.  However, there was little love lost between Iranians and Arabs.  Nevertheless, during that period Arab nationalism lost ground to calls for Islamic militancy.

What precipitated the spread of militant Islam from Iran into the Arab world, was the shame felt by many at their humiliating defeat by the Israelis in 1967.  They placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of their own Arab leaders, whose dictatorial style, corruption and private willingness to co-exist with Israel while spouting militant platitudes was creating an angry backlash.  Since then, the tensions between the "Arab street" and their leaders has only intensified. The conflict in Gaza, the inability of the Palestinian Authority to gain ground on the Jewish settlements issue in the West Bank are just some of the issues contributing to the growing disenchantment of Arabs with their own leaders.  The Tunisian uprising have given Egyptians and possibly other Arab populations a sense of empowerment, that will not be easily muffled. 

It is difficult to say how far the protests in Egypt will go.  But these developments are about to make Israel's life with its Arab neighbors a whole lot tougher.

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