Sharansky urges US Congress to help M. East protesters

Former Soviet dissident blasts Western governments; tells 'Post' pressure on Israel to make concessions now is misguided.

Natan Sharansky 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Natan Sharansky 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
WASHINGTON – Jewish Agency chairman and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky blasted Western governments for pushing Israel to make concessions amid upheaval in the Middle East that has left the fate of Arab governments unclear.
He told The Jerusalem Post that it would be an “absolute mistake” for Israel to make such concessions as long as Arab citizens were still under the rule of authoritarian regimes.
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“At this moment, with whom are we making an agreement? Dictators whose days are counted, or with the masses who are not represented in any way? The real peace process has to be built from the bottom up, through democratic reforms,” he declared following an appearance on Capitol Hill.
“One-sided concessions are all the time strengthening the bad guys,” he said. “Concessions have to be done as a result of a democratic development.”
During testimony before a small panel of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Sharansky also took the West to task for not doing enough to bolster democratic movements seeking to reshape the region.
“It’s time for the free world, for the Congress, to support openly these dissidents that are leading these cyber-revolutions.
But if they see the leaders of the free world are ready to support them with word but not deed, there is a problem,” he told them.
He also spelled out more specific action the US could take to support these opposition groups, particularly by conditioning American aid to countries such as Egypt on democratic benchmarks, an idea he first spelled out in an interview with the Post.
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
“You need your assistance to be linked to the wellness of the people in that country,” he said. “The quicker the forces of the civil society will move, the broader the support of the free world will be – the bigger is the chance for positive outcome.”
He directed some of his most critical comments at the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Iran in June 2009, when large groups of protesters took to the streets to oppose flawed election results.
“It almost happened in Iran a year and a half ago, but the message of the free world was unfortunately very problematic.
The message from the free world was, they are not interested in revolution, they are interested in engagement,” he charged, adding that for those who were deciding whether to risk standing up to dictatorial regimes, “the moment [they] hear the free world is not with them, they stay at home.”
Still, he maintained that whatever the West did, “these regimes are doomed to fail.”