How will Israel and Saudi Arabia respond to Egypt’s revolution?


10:45 am - February 13th 2011

by Guest    


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contribution by Matt Hill

On Friday, the UK followed the lead of Mubarak’s former ally the US, in withdrawing its support only when it became clear it was backing the wrong camel. Leaders and opinion-makers in Israel were even less enthusiastic about the protests: freedom and democracy are all well and good, they seemed to say, so long as they don’t expect to move in next door.

Israelis fear that a new, populist Egyptian government will threaten the two countries’ 1978 peace agreement, the soundest plank in Israel’s fragile neighbourly relations. That is not an ureasonable concern: four wars since 1948 exacted a terrible price on both sides, and thanks to $25 billion of US military aid, Egypt boasts a powerful army.

Its next rulers are unlikely to risk provoking the superpower to the east into full-scale conflict. But free elections would surely produce a government less cordial to Israel’s interests than Mubarak’s, whose collusion in the blockade of Gaza most Egyptians reviled.

If Israel concludes that its long-term security is best assured by nurturing its ‘cold peace’ with Arab regimes who pay lip service to Palestinian rights while suppressing dissent, it will have learnt precisely the wrong lesson from the ‘Arab spring’.

That’s why the revival of the peace process is more urgent than ever in the wake of Mubarak’s departure. Israel has never had a more willing partner on the Palestinian side, as leaked documents detailing peace negotiations show.

When Menachem Begin and Anwar El Sadat signed the Camp David Accords in 1978, leading to peace between the two nations, Israel promised withdrawal from the occupied territories and full independence for the Palestinians within five years. 33 years and many failed negotiations later, numbers of Israeli settlers in the West Bank have swelled from 10,000 to over 300,000. But the scale of the challenge makes it no less crucial.

80 million Egyptians have just roared onto the world stage, and the Middle East will never be the same. It’s about time Israel started making some real friends.

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contribution by Ranjit Sidhu

Wikileaks confirmed what was an open secret: individuals from Saudi Arabia are responsible for the majority of funding for the Sunni terrorist organisations in the region, including Al Qaeda.

However, there was an insight into the Saudi government’s approach when it is alleged on the 29th of January that the Saudi King Abdullah told President Obama that they would bankroll Mubarak’s Egypt if the US withdrew its aid program despite the public uprising.

What must be recognised is that the Saudi Arabian government is fanatical in spreading it’s branch of Islam at the expense of all others; Wahhabism, which is considered extremist by most Sunni and Shia muslims.

It is not afraid to throw money to those governments who follow its lead donating, $49 billion by 2006. We can be sure that when the financial problems appear in Egypt, Saudi Arabia will be there ready to use its cheque book to spread it brand of religious extremism.

Unfortunately, it would be highly unlikely that the democratic movement in the middle east could effect the totalitarianism of the Saudi government itself (we can hope!). That we have been supportive of such a regime is a shame that we in the west have to carry and history will judge us on.

But, we are duty bound to try to prevent this most corrosive of countries interfering with the likes of Tunisia and Egypt.

Like the oil that has made us kowtow to this monarchy, it will try to seep its influence through any cracks appearing in these fledgling democracies- we need to stand guard to mop it up before it poisons the burgeoning flower democracy that is arising in the middle east.

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Reader comments


I have always been under the impression that the majority of the Saudi royals are a modernising force in the country and instead it is the religious figures and a proportion of the public which enforce the extremist elements of society. Robert Lacey has a pretty good profile on Saudi Arabia and it’s rulers in this book… maybe he is mistaken? http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inside-Kingdom-Robert-Lacey/dp/009193124X

The fact that Kig Abdullah would be willing to bankroll Mubarak further supports the view that it’s not the rulers in Saudi that are the religious fanatics. That book I linked above discusses the sort of placating of the religious leaders that the royals need to indulge in. If the royals dissapeared tomorrow – do you really think Saudi would be a better place?

“That we have been supportive of such a regime is a shame that we in the west have to carry and history will judge us on.”
But what would the regime have been like without support? What would the middle east look like without that support? This goes back to a post here yesterday, but you are assuming that the lack of US support for Saudi Arabia would have resulted in a better outcome (and experience for the people) than there currently is now. This isn’t at all clear to me… it might be right – but it would be a difficult assesment to make.

I think you are spot on in that Egypt should be guarded from extremist elements. Hopefully aid will be free flowing there for the foreseeable future.

@1 The Saudis use their funds to distribute Wahhabi Islam texts to schools across the world, for free. They have to part with cash willingly to get that done.

Plus it is not surprising that Monarchs would consider themselves above religious diktat, this is one of the lessons that should be learned from the fact that the only reason the UK is not a Catholic nation is because a fat man wanted a divorce.

3. So Much For Subtlety

“However, there was an insight into the Saudi government’s approach when it is alleged on the 29th of January that the Saudi King Abdullah told President Obama that they would bankroll Mubarak’s Egypt if the US withdrew its aid program despite the public uprising.

“What must be recognised is that the Saudi Arabian government is fanatical in spreading it’s branch of Islam at the expense of all others; Wahhabism, which is considered extremist by most Sunni and Shia muslims.”

Actually what is clear and must be recognised is that the Saudi Arabian government fears the spread of its branch of Islam. You see the previous paragraph? Mubarak is a torturer and jailer of Wahhabis. He has repressed the Muslim Brotherhood for decades. If he goes, the Brothers will almost certainly take power – and the Saudis are so afraid of that that they said they were willing to bankroll Mubarak to keep him in office.

We can be sure that when the financial problems appear in Egypt, Saudi Arabia will be there ready to use its cheque book to spread it brand of religious extremism.

Really? It’s not obvious to me that that would be the case. If there was an Islamist government in Egypt, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it would be friendly with Saudi Arabia. For example, Iran and Saudi Arabia don’t exactly get on. (Though of course the Iranians are Shia while the Saudis are Sunni, which partially explains the discord).

Either a democratic Egypt or a fundamentalist Egypt may want to export their revolution to the rest of the Arab world, either of which could destabilise the Saudi regime. What the Saudis would most want is someone like Mubarak in charge, a tyrant who keeps dissent in check.

@1: If the royals dissapeared tomorrow – do you really think Saudi would be a better place?

The impression I get is that Islamic fundamentalism is a receding force in the Arab world, and that this has been the case since the Iranian election was stolen in 2009.

While SA is a more conservative society than Egypt or Tunisia, I think democrats would outnumber Islamists in any democratic election.

@5 “While SA is a more conservative society than Egypt or Tunisia, I think democrats would outnumber Islamists in any democratic election.”

But a democratic election is very unlikely to emerge if the royals dissapeared tomorrow and even less likely if the USA stopped supporting them.

Iran is a special case – it has a pretty interesting conistutional set up with the Supreme Leader (who they weren’t electing) effectivly acting as the stand-in for the Twelfth Imam who hasn’t been seen for over 1000 years but isn’t dead and is up on some spiritual plane waiting for the word from god where he will return and bring peace to the world. Trying to get rid of the Supreme Leader is more sensitive that most people would think as it is in process, one is effectivly sticking tje finger up at the Twelfth Imam himself… which even many moderates aren’t in the mood for.

I might live to regret this, but without looking at any opinion polls, I think the question on the public want for proper liberal democracy is a hard one to call.

Thanks you all for you comments.

I would just like to add that Saudi Arabia as a country is an absolute monarchy-executive, judicial and legislative powers all sit squarely with the King with all financial and political power being exercised by the 7,000 strong royal family. It is also considered one of the most authoritarian governments in the world – a country were political organisations are banned and religious freedom is not recognized. As much as 30% of its population is migrated foreign national, the majority of which are from Southern Asia. With no legal protection they are often treated no more than slaves- last year doctors removed 13 nails and five needles from a Sri Lankian housemaid who stated they were hammered into her as punishment , Amensity’s International list of abuse for is depressingly long.

The links to articles are on my blog

Thanks

Ranjit

8. Just Visiting

Phil Hunt 5

Wow – your views sound like wishful thinking. Any evidence or statistics to support them?

> … Islamic fundamentalism is a receding force in the Arab world…since…2009.

> SA is a more conservative society than Egypt or Tunisia, I think democrats would outnumber Islamists in any democratic election.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How will Israel and Saudi Arabia respond to Egypt's revolution? http://bit.ly/fXMBVw

  2. Andy S

    How will Israel and Saudi Arabia respond to Egypt’s revolution? http://bit.ly/erGomx thought provoking from Liberal Conspiracy. #Jan25

  3. Ranjit Sidhu

    My piece about how Saudi Arabia needs to be kept away from the fledgling Egypt in Liberal Conspiracy blog: http://bit.ly/hBM1iz

  4. Pauline Hammerton

    RT @libcon: How will Israel and Saudi Arabia respond to Egypt's revolution? http://bit.ly/fXMBVw

  5. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: How will Israel and Saudi Arabia respond to Egypt’s revolution?: contribution by Matt Hill
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  6. WikiLeaks John Eveli

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  7. liberalideals

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  9. Rachel Hubbard

    How will Israel and Saudi Arabia respond to Egypt’s revolution? | Liberal Conspiracy http://goo.gl/BoLlf

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  11. Robert Schmaltz

    RT @libcon: How will Israel and Saudi Arabia respond to Egypt's revolution? http://bit.ly/fXMBVw

  12. Tom Usher

    Begin & Sadat signed Camp David. Israel promised withdrawal from territories & independence for Palestinians in 5 yrs. http://bit.ly/e4DAeR

  13. Protecting the new Egypt from the poisonous power we call friend | MYTHOS

    […] An edited version was published at Liberal Conspiracy here. […]





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