PM: Israel wants free democracy in Middle East

Israeli official: World looks at Egypt and hopes for eastern Europe in 1989; Israel fears it will turn into Iran in 1979.

Netanyahu at Carmel memorial ceremony 311 (photo credit: GPO / Avi Ohyahon)
Netanyahu at Carmel memorial ceremony 311
(photo credit: GPO / Avi Ohyahon)
A day after warning that the dramatic events in Egypt could usher in a radical Islamic government inimical to peace, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu clarified Tuesday that Israel stood firmly behind democratic values, but simply did not want to see them used by those who would then trample them.
The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement Tuesday saying that Netanyahu, in private conversations, said that Israel is a democratic nation that encourages the advancement of freedom and democratic values in the Middle East.
"The advancement of these values will help peace," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.  "However, if this will make it possible for extreme forces to take advantage of democratic processes to rise to power and promote anti democratic goals – as happened in Iran and elsewhere – then the results will harm both peace and democracy."
Netanyahu reiterated that Israel's supreme interest regarding Egypt was to preserve the peace agreement.  He called on the international community to demand of any Egyptian government that the peace agreement with Israel be honored.
One government official said that while much of the world was looking at the occurrences in Egypt and thinking of the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Israeli officials were looking at the events and seeing the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.
Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, breaking a cabinet policy of silence on Egypt, said during a tour of Kiryat Bialik that it was forbidden to leave the Middle East to Iranian control.
Efforts must be made, he said, to channel the uprisings in the Middle East into closer ties with the West.
"The main struggle today is between the West and Iran," he said, adding g that the Middle East was a region of critical importance to the world, and that its control by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a real prospect and danger that would "change the entire world."
Netanyahu held hours of consultations with the country's intelligence agencies on Tuesday, in meetings arranged prior to the dramatic events in Cairo to hear their annual intelligence assessments, but which – because of the events – focused on the situation in Egypt.