Ayalon: Mubarak deserves credit for acting ‘responsibly’

Shalev says Israel must brace for time when it can’t claim to be only democracy in the Mideast.

Danny Ayalon 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post)
Danny Ayalon 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday for his “good behavior” and acting responsibly during the recent crisis in Egypt.
Ayalon, speaking at the Herzliya Conference, said that Mubarak and the Egyptian government did not “lose their nerves” in dealing with the protests or “do anything out of the ordinary,” but let the demonstrations run their course and die down on their own.
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Ayalon, speaking at a panel entitled “All the Eggs in One Basket? America’s Place in Israel’s Foreign Policy,” said that as a result of the turmoil, Egypt would be preoccupied with its own internal issues, something that “will be a loss for the region.”
He said there was no other actor on the scene in the region right now that could fill the role Egypt had played in “projecting stability” and keeping “the very important peaceful relationship with Israel.”
Former ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev raised another issue concerning Egypt, saying that as democratic forces emerged there and in other countries in the Middle East, the rationale in the US for supporting Israel because it was the only democratic country in the region would be weakened.
“We used to say that there are two main values between Israel and the US – geopolitical strategic goals, and the values and ethos linking us and the US. This is changing, because we see the interests of the US are changing, and because there are more movements toward democracy in places like Egypt and Iraq,” Shalev said.
Since Israel may soon no longer be able to claim the title of the only democracy in the Middle East, Shalev said it must continuously invest in the relationship with the US – one way being to move forward aggressively on the Palestinian track.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that the messages coming out of Washington in recent weeks during the Egyptian crisis had been “problematic.”
Washington, Hoenlein said, needed to “build the confidence of allies” and gain the “respected fear of enemies.”
Hoenlein said it would be interesting to see how the situation in Egypt impacted the sale of $60 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.
Former ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval said that by putting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the top of the Mideast agenda – instead of the region’s more pressing issues – the US wasn’t significantly paying attention to real factors of instability in the Middle East.
Calling Egypt a “game changer,” Shoval said it was important now to watch what priority the Obama administration would give the peace process. Shoval also said the situation in Egypt showed that a peace agreement may “not necessarily be the end of conflict” and was not necessarily a guarantee for security.