Natan Sharansky, whose walk to freedom across Berlin’s Glienicke Bridge precisely 25 years ago presaged the collapse of the Soviet Union, has urged the free world to give its backing to the Arab masses who are out on the streets bidding to be rid of their autocratic leaders.

“If the free world helps the people on the streets, and turns into the allies of these people instead of being the allies of the dictators, then there is a unique chance to build a new pact between the free world and the Arab world,” Sharansky said in an extensive interview that appears in Friday's Jerusalem Post. “And we, Israel, will be among the beneficiaries, simply because these people will then be dealing with their real problems.”

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The 63-year-old Sharansky, the dissident icon of the campaign to free Soviet Jewry who went on to become a deputy prime minister here and now chairs the Jewish Agency, acknowledged that Israel has “reasons for concern” amid the current regional instability.

“We are a small country. We can be destroyed in one day if we lower our guard,” he said.

“But, on the other hand, while we continue to be on guard,” he urged, “let’s be glad that what’s happening now on the Arab street is happening before the Muslim Brothers control the entire Middle East... Let’s be glad that it is happening in countries which are still very dependent on the free world.”


Led by the US, the West should use that leverage, said Sharansky, to ensure that Arab peoples’ demands for democratic reforms are heeded. “If I was in the Senate, I would immediately pass a law maintaining US assistance to Egypt on condition that 20 percent of it goes to democratic reforms,” he suggested.

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