Region incredulous at speed with which U.S. betrayed Mubarak
Wednesday, February 2, 2011 E-Mail this story Free Headline Alerts
TEL AVIV — Israel and neighboring states have been stunned by what was termed the U.S. betrayal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Analysts and government sources said the speed with which President Barack Obama withdrew his support for the Mubarak regime has astounded the Jewish state as well as its Arab neighbors. They said Obama's abandonment of Mubarak, regarded as one of the most reliable of American allies in the Middle East, would severely undermine U.S. credibility in the region.
"Israel is mainly worried by Obama's attitude towards Mubarak," Israeli analyst Dan Margalit said.
Margalit, regarded as reflecting government positions, said Mubarak led the Egyptian alliance with the United States for 30 years. Today, Margalit said, Obama has discarded the Mubarak regime at the risk of the emergence of an Islamic fundamentalist regime in Egypt.
"It is possible that the Americans know that a revolutionary regime would maintain ties to the West, but they have no guarantees," Margalit said. "One could also wonder how their relations with Cairo will appear if Mubarak survives. They have no convincing answer. How will they be seen in the eyes of the moderate Arab leaders after sticking a knife in the back of their most veteran partner?"
Government sources said Margalit's analysis reflected the view of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as many in his Cabinet. Over the last year, the Israeli prime minister was said to have developed excellent relations with Mubarak.
"We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak," Netanyahu said on Jan. 31. "I don't say everything that he did was right. But he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East."
Yoni Ben Menachem, a key Arab analyst close to Netanyahu, said the Muslim Brotherhood would eventually emerge as the dominant partner in any post-Mubarak government. Ben Menachem, who headed Israel's state radio, said the Brotherhood was using former International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Mohammed El Baradei to negotiate with Vice President Omar Suleiman to ensure the ouster of Mubarak and free elections in September.
"They [Brotherhood] use people in the intermediate stages of the revolution and later they will be thrown into the garbage heap of history," Ben Menachem said. "Baradei is simply to be used. And the world stands and watches and says 'Maybe here there will be a leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize and maybe he will lead Egypt.' "
"This is not their real intention," Ben Menachem said. "At the end this will lead to the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood."
The sources asserted that Washington was playing a major role in encouraging the Egyptian opposition to topple Mubarak. But they did not rule out the prospect that Egypt's military, bolstered with U.S. aid, could continue to control the Arab state.
"The elements that turned Egypt into a strategic partner of the United States are still strong," Uzi Rabi, a professor at Tel Aviv University, said. "The army, the main center of power, is well aware of the critical importance of continued cooperation with the West. The peace with Israel is a critical piece of this puzzle, upon which is based Egypt's economic, diplomatic and security policy."
But the sources said Arab allies of the United States would not forgive Obama for abandoning Mubarak. They pointed to rising unrest in such states as Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
"The way that President Obama and Hillary Clinton both abandoned Mubarak is very very problematic and hints, in my opinion, with regard to other allies — for example, Israel," former Mossad director Danny Yatom said.