Israel: Egyptian Unrest Is Justification To Make Palestinians Even More Miserable

ED. NOTE: Linkage between allowing Palestinians to live in dignity and what is happening in Egypt is despicable – but hardly surprising from an Israeli government whose Foreign Minister refers to Palestinians as rats and cockroaches.

With neighboring Egypt and other parts of the region in upheaval, Israelis contemplating their own future are taking refuge in familiar positions, and the prospect of the Netanyahu government’s making peace with the Palestinians, already distant, receded further.

Committed advocates of the peace process urged the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to take a significant step toward reconciliation, arguing that over time Israel could find itself more isolated and less certain of its bargaining power.

But officials of the conservative-leaning government, who have been more reluctant and suspicious in their approach to the Palestinians, were digging in, saying that the current regional instability increased the risk inherent in making any deals.

Israelis were already anxious about the fate of the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, should the Muslim Brotherhood emerge as the heir to the government of President Hosni Mubarak.

“People here,” said a minister from the Likud Party, which leads the Israeli government, “will feel that there is no point in a peace treaty if after 30 years it can be broken.”

In a speech to Parliament on Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu said that in an unstable situation like this one, “we have to look around us with our eyes wide open.”

He added, “The basis for our stability, for our future and for preserving the peace or widening it, particularly at a time of instability, lies in bolstering the might of the state of Israel.”

Mr. Netanyahu called on the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to resume peace negotiations without preconditions. But the prime minister also said it was possible that the gaps between the two sides were too wide to be bridged.

The latest events have shaken Israel. For decades, it has benefited from the cooperation of several autocratic leaders in the region, but the current turmoil has proved such governments as inherently unstable. And while Israeli leaders say they support the spread of democracy, they also fear the consequences if it happens too quickly because anti-Israeli sentiment runs high in the neighboring countries.

“The ugly facts,” Moshe Arens, a Likud hawk and three-time defense minister, wrote in the Haaretz newspaper this week, “are that the two peace treaties that Israel concluded so far — the one with Egypt and the other with Jordan — were both signed with dictators: Anwar Sadat and King Hussein.”

“What’s more,” he continued, “the negotiations that for a while held some promise of reaching a peace agreement — with Syria and with the Palestine Liberation Organization — were also conducted with unsavory dictators.”

For Israel, reaching a deal with the Palestinians would mean making significant territorial concessions. Many here note that after Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas, the Islamic militant group, won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, then seized full control of Gaza a year later. If the Muslim Brotherhood indeed gains power in Egypt, analysts say, it may only be a matter of time before Hamas takes over the West Bank, another factor putting Israelis off peacemaking.

Tzipi Livni, the leader of the centrist Kadima Party, which leads the opposition, said that Israel had to try to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for its own interests. Ms. Livni, who led the Israeli negotiating team under the government of Ehud Olmert, said that Israel needed a fixed border no less than the Palestinians, and that it must work with the current pragmatic leadership in the West Bank.

For some Israelis, it was business as usual. Right-wing officials and activists, accompanied by Mike Huckabee, the Republican former governor of Arkansas, laid a cornerstone on Tuesday for new Jewish housing on the Mount of Olives in contested East Jerusalem.

Complete article via New York Times

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