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Israel is right, then, to urge the U.S. and other countries to stop pressuring Mubarak and appreciate the relative moderation of his regime—compared to much worse alternatives. Still, for Israel, the crisis can only have a deeply sobering effect.
It was with the advent of formal Israeli-Egyptian peace that the term “Arab-Israeli conflict” came to be replaced by the term “peace process.” The tripartite signing of the treaty by the Israeli, Egyptian, and American heads of government was seen by many in the West—and particularly in Israel—as having near-messianic significance. The quest for similar consummations with the Palestinians and Syria—supposed to lead to Israel’s ultimate acceptance by the Middle East—became a tremendous political and academic obsession and industry.
In recent years it has been much harder for Israelis to sustain such visions. The “process” with the Palestinians has led to deadlock at best and terror at worst. Another former regional ally, Turkey, has turned openly hostile under Islamist rule, while Lebanon sinks further into Hezbollah’s grip. The specter of Egypt becoming, again, a frontline country—necessitating a huge and costly reorientation of Israel’s military deployment—haunts Israelis who understand that the only strong, organized force among the regime’s opponents, whatever crowds may be roiling in the streets of Cairo, Suez, and Alexandria, are the Islamists.
But the instability of the region, the fragility of “peace” as a goal, has implications beyond Israel. As Aluf Benn wrote on Monday in a follow-up article:
When Obama and his advisers look at a map of the region, they see only one state they can count on: Israel. The regime is stable, and support for America is well-entrenched. Obama may dislike Netanyahu and his policy toward the Palestinians, but after losing his allies in Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and with the uneasiness gripping his friends in Jordan and the Gulf, Washington can’t afford to be choosy.
Egypt may not be lost yet. If it is, Israel will stand as the one strong horse in the region aligned with the West against the radicals.
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