With the world naturally swept up by the yearnings for liberty in Egypt, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu raised a voice of caution Wednesday, telling the Knesset that while everyone would like to see true democracy and freedom in Egypt, there was no guarantee this would be the result of the current turmoil.
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Likewise, he said, the situation in Egypt showed how everything in the Middle East could change overnight, and as a result, any peace accord with the Palestinians must be based on security arrangements that would ensure Israel’s security even if a future peace were to unravel.
“In Washington, London and Paris – all over the democratic world – leaders, analysts and researchers all spoke about the opportunities inherent in the changes taking place in Egypt,” Netanyahu said.
“They talked about the dawn of a new day, and these hopes are understood,” he went on.
“All of those for whom human freedom is precious, including the Israeli public, are inspired by the calls for democratic reforms and the possibility that they will actually be implemented everywhere.”
And, he said, an Egypt enshrined with democratic values “will not constitute any threat to peace, but the opposite.”
However, Netanyahu warned, this was not the only possible outcome or scenario.
“Because far from Washington, Paris and London, but not that far from Jerusalem, there is another hope, in another capital,” he said.
Netanyahu said in that capital, Teheran, there were also leaders who recognized the opportunities inherent in the changes in Egypt, and who also expressed their support for the Egyptian masses who took to the streets.
“They are also talking about the dawn of a new day, but for these people in that capital, we are not talking about a day in which the dawn will break, but a day in which darkness will fall,” he said.
Netanyahu said that Iran’s leaders were in no way interested in the Egyptian people’s yearnings for freedom, liberalization and reform, or in an “enlightened Egypt,” but in an Egypt that “will return to the Middle Ages.”
“They want Egypt to turn into another Gaza, that will be run by radical forces and will oppose everything we desire, everything the democratic world represents,” he said.
Netanyahu said there were two worldviews at odds: “That of the free, democratic world, and that of the radical world.
Which worldview will win out in Egypt?” Netanyahu said Israel clearly favored the forces “that promote freedom, progress and peace. We are against the forces that will bring dark tyranny, terrorism and war.”'Democracy and reform could promote peace between Israel, Arab world'
He also said he was convinced that those who genuinely wanted to promote change, democracy and reform in Egypt would promote the peace between Israel and the Arab world.
But, he stressed, “we’re still not there,” and it could take years for the dust to settle.
Recent Middle East history, he said, showed that in too many instances
in the Middle East, radical Islamic elements took advantage of the
democratic rules of the game to take control and install anti-democratic
regimes. It happened in Iran, Lebanon and Gaza, he pointed out.
“Iran has freedom?” he asked.
“Gaza has democracy? Hizbullah promotes human rights? We must ensure
this doesn’t happen again. We must... do everything we can to ensure
that peace will last.”
Netanyahu said Israel’s peace agreements with both Egypt and Jordan, and
the fact that Israel did not have to expend massive resources on
defending the southern and eastern borders, had dramatically changed
Israel’s strategic situation over the last 30 years.
Preserving the peace was essential for Israel, he said.
“We expect that any Egyptian government will honor the peace,” he said.
“More than that, we expect that the international community will expect
that any Egyptian government will honor the peace. This has to be clear,
in addition to the discussion taking place about reform and democracy.”'We are in an
Something else that was clear, Netanyahu said, was that “we are in an
unstable situation. In a situation like this, it is necessary to look
around us with open eyes. We need to see things as they are, not as we
wished they would be.”
Netanyahu said the developments in Egypt underlined why Israel had to
remain strong and demand ironclad security arrangements in any future
agreement with the Palestinians.
These agreements were necessary not only because they would ensure
peace, he said, but because they would ensure that Israel could defend
itself if peace unraveled.
Because, he said, “in the Middle East, no one can guarantee the existence of the [governing] regimes.”
Netanyahu said he hoped Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
would “see the changes in the region as an opportunity to sit with us
and negotiate without preconditions.”
These negotiations, he said, should take into consideration the changes that are impacting both Israel and the PA.
In advance of Saturday’s meeting of the Quartet – the US, EU, UN and
Russia – to discuss the diplomatic process, Netanyahu said he planned to
take further steps, which he did not spell out, to encourage the
development and growth of the Palestinian economy.
While improving the Palestinian economy is not a replacement for peace
talks, he said, “it helps stability and shows the Palestinians there is a
lot to gain from peace.”