4
Jul

By Thomas L. Friedman

Is the election of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, as president of Egypt the beginning of the end of the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, it could actually be the beginning of a real peace between the Israeli and the Egyptian peoples, instead of what we’ve had: a cold, formal peace between Israel and a single Egyptian pharaoh. But, for that to be the case, both sides will have to change some deeply ingrained behaviors, and fast.

First, let’s dispense with some nonsense. There is a mantra you hear from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel and various right-wing analysts: “We told you so.” It’s the idea that somehow President Obama could have intervened to “save” President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and he was just too naïve to do so, and the inevitable result is that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken power. Sorry, naïveté is thinking that because it was so convenient for Israel to have peace with one dictator, Mubarak, rather than 80 million Egyptians, that this dictator — or some other general — would and could stay at the helm in Egypt forever. Talk about naïve.

I truly appreciate the anxiety Israelis feel at seeing their neighborhood imploding. But it is also striking that a people for whom the Exodus story of liberation is so central — and who for so long argued that peace will happen only when the Arabs become democratic — failed to believe that the liberation narrative might one day resonate with the people of Egypt and now proclaim that the problem with the Arabs is that they are becoming democratic. This has roots.

“In their relations with power, Jews in exile have always preferred vertical alliances to horizontal ones,” notes Leon Wieseltier, the Jewish scholar and literary editor of The New Republic. “They always preferred to have a relationship with the king or the bishop so as not to have to engage with the general population, of which they were deeply distrustful — and they often had reason to be distrustful. Israel, as a sovereign state, reproduced the old Jewish tradition of the vertical alliance, only this time with the Arab states. They thought that if they had a relationship with Mubarak or the king of Jordan, they had all they needed. But the model of the vertical alliance only makes sense with authoritarian political systems. As soon as authoritarianism breaks down, and a process of democratization begins, the vertical model is over and you enter a period of horizontality in which the opinions of the people — in this instance, ordinary Arabs — will matter.” As a result, Israel will have to make the man on the street “not only fear it, but also understand it. This will not be easy, but it may not be impossible. Anyway, nostalgia for dictators is not a thoughtful policy.” Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on July 3, 2012 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 4, 2012, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: What Does Morsi Mean For Israel?).

Comments

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