PM: We want democracy in ME, but not if it stifles freedom

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 Israel was a democratic nation that encouraged 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 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 that were arranged prior to the events in Cairo to hear their annual intelligence assessments, but that – because of the events – focused on the situation in Egypt.
Meanwhile, speaking at a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Israel not to allow the unrest in Egypt to halt ongoing efforts to revive the peace process with the Palestinians.
“It is important that we act here and now,” she said. “The standstill [in the peace process], the stagnation is unacceptable. It does not serve the interest of any party involved, nor does it serve the interest of the state of Israel.”
Israel had nothing to lose by pursuing peace, she said.
With respect to Egypt, she said she hoped the upheaval would take a peaceful course.
It was important that the Egyptian armed forces had said it was a human right for the people to demonstrate in the streets, added Merkel.
She noted that the situation in Egypt could present a security challenge to Israel.
“Germany is committed to the security of Israel. We will do whatever we can to safeguard Israel’s security,” she asserted.