Tone deaf in Tel Aviv

“We believe that Egypt is going to overcome the current wave of demonstrations, but we have to look to the future, because democracies do not initiate wars [Ed. Except when they do]. Having said that, I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process

An unnamed Israeli cabinet minister to Time Magazine, Jan 28, 2011. The minister rationalizes this as those few occasions Arabs are allowed to vote they elect inappropriate groups, “inappropriate” defined as groups hostile to Israel’s interest such as Hamas. (The minister leaves out the part where Fatah was undermined by Israel to the point of no longer being credible in the eyes of the Palestinian people, but I digress.)

Nor is it Israel’s opinion alone. Stephen Harper also infamously stood up for democratic values when he was one of the most vocal of Western leaders showing displeasure that the “right people” hadn’t been elected.

Time goes on to note the minister’s reaction might be seen as “paternalistic at best” – an understatement. Israel though, does not really want democratic neighbours. They don’t because it would be very difficult to ignore complaints about their current policies towards the Palestinians from governments with the moral stature of democratic legitimacy. This is probably why Israel has instructed their ambassadors to lobby the West to curb criticism of Mubarak.

“The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren’t considering their genuine interests,” one senior Israeli official said. “Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they’re not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications.”

Very serious implications…for Israel. Note that the Israeli official does not seem to equate our “genuine interest” with “democracy promotion”. The “genuine interest” is to frustrate the will of the Egyptian people by “seeking stability” with Mubarak. And it is frustrate in the most heinous way possible:

Human Rights Watch found that [Egyptian] law enforcement officers routinely and deliberately use torture and ill-treatment – in ordinary criminal cases as well as with political dissidents and security detainees – to coerce confessions, extract other information, or simply to punish detainees.

Of note later in the Haaretz article, Benjamin Netanyahu states:

“We are closely monitoring events in Egypt and the region and are making efforts to preserve its security and stability.

It’s more than just urging to the West to temper language – that’s a not so subtle hint Israeli intelligence is working inside Egypt to save the regime.

All this is completely tone-deaf, and will do more to undermine the already eroding perception  of Israel in the Western public’s eye.