Writing in The Washington Post, Jackson Diehl reiterates a point that I’ve made recently: that despite a peace treaty which he viewed in coldly practical terms, Hosni Mubarak was no friend of Israel.
Imagine an Egypt that consistently opposes the West in international forums while relentlessly campaigning against Israel. A government that seeds its media with vile anti-Semitism, locks relations with Israel in a cold freeze and makes a habit of publicly rejecting “interference” in its affairs by the United States. A regime that allows Hamas to import tons of munitions and Iranian rockets into the Gaza Strip.
That would be the government of Hosni Mubarak – the same one that the United States propped up with tens of billions of dollars in aid, at the cost of tarnishing America’s image among democrats and a frustrated young generation across the Middle East. If Egypt now makes a transition to genuine democracy, its foreign policy might not get much better from Washington’s point of view. But it is unlikely to get worse.
The reality is that Mubarak maintained his distinctly cold peace with Israel – which he visited once in 29 years – because it was in Egypt’s vital interest. The country has no territorial claim and no motive to go to war with its neighbor, and its military is less able than ever to challenge Israel’s 21st-century army. A democratic government might be unfriendly to the Jewish state, but it will not abrogate the peace treaty. If it allows Hamas to smuggle in Iranian weapons or opens the border to the Gaza Strip, it will differ by degree – if at all – from Mubarak.