Sunday, January 30, 2011

First Thoughts on the Egyptian Crisis

First thoughts on the events sweeping the Arab world, which seem to be to the most significant events since the fall of the shah. The fragility of power, when it is suddenly exposed, is always breathtaking. This will fundamentally challenge the preconceptions of America’s role in the Middle East since the Carter administration, propping up sclerotic, increasingly unpopular regimes in the interest of an increasingly elusive “stability,” a stability that was fatally undermined at home, in the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, and the dots can be easily connected from the fall of Lehman Brothers to the impending fall of Hosni Mubarak. May the Egyptians and Tunisians take this opportunity to reshape their countries in a truly democratic fashion, and we have to trust moderate Islamism to find its own way. In any event, the end of the Nasserist experiment in Egypt is long overdue.

If I may be parochial for a moment, what impact might this have on Israel and its endless impasse with its neighbors? I suppose everyone will see this through their own preconceptions. Those who are not really interested in negotiations with the Palestinians will see this as additional proof that the instability of the region makes enduring peace impossible. Those who feel differently will see argue that the ending of the wobbly pax America in the middle east will and must finally light a fire under Israel and force it to stop haggling over settlements it never should built in the first place, and strike a deal similar to the one outlined in the Al-Jazeera releases this past week. (That deal is looking better and better.) I guess one of the big uncertainties is the impact of all this unexpected democracy on the shaky, western-backed PA. In the end this will either, in a way that all the worlds’ jawboning never could, compel Israel to seek real peace with the Palestinians. Or not.

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