Zvi Barel
Haaretz (Opinion)
August 31, 2011 - 12:00am

We were shocked. Suddenly we were told that Egypt is being run by a "military junta." We were also surprised to discover that after 33 years of peace, the peace agreement was signed with a dictator, and that we continued on with the dictator who followed him after he was assassinated. And now this peace is about to collapse, because the dictator is gone and the junta has arrived.

Now Israel stands in fear and trepidation, counting the days until the Camp David agreement with Egypt comes crashing down. In Israel, the peace agreement is perceived as a prelude to war. Even if another 100 years pass after its signature, it is a threat.

So here is the solution: Instead of getting excited every morning about Egyptian statements regarding a "reevaluation" of the Camp David Accords, and instead of waiting around in fear for the moment when Egypt will announce a demand that the agreements be changed, Israel should initiate a cancellation of the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, until those countries have a genuine democracy or real dictatorship of the sort that Israel knows how to cooperate with.

We would, of course, very much like to see a military junta stay on in Egypt, under General Tantawi, managing affairs and keeping Tahrir Square from deciding who will lead the country. Peace with Egyptian citizens is much more expensive than peace with a junta or with a dictator. The people demand peace with the Palestinians, withdrawal from the territories, the demarcation of borders, and the rest of the demands that the dictators did not insist on. But how is it possible to continue living in peace with a military junta that answers to the voice of the street?

The truth is that we actually like military juntas. In Turkey we loved the junta that bought drones from us, upgraded its tanks and cooperated with us on intelligence. But now the country is led by a "civilian junta," an "Islamic" one that was elected democratically. And, once more, surprise: It turns out that even a democracy is not the magic solution. It is even dangerous for ties between countries. In Egypt, we liked Hosni Mubarak because he was part of the military establishment, and we also liked also Anwar Sadat who preceded him. King Hussein relied on his army, and when he signed the peace agreement with Israel he did not consult the Jordanian people.

We liked military juntas in the Arab world, and in Chile, Argentina and Ethiopia. Military juntas speak a similar language. They understand one another; their interests are narrow and specific; they are scornful of civilians, certain that without them their countries will fall into chaos, and that civilian politics - democracy - is a recipe for the country's collapse. Juntas operate in the name of a desired value that is supreme to all other values: security. All the rest - education, health, social services, civil rights - can exist only if the junta ensures security.

"The nation and the army together," demonstrators cried in Tahrir Square.

Our junta would love it if Rothschild Boulevard would burst like a bubble. Civilians with round glasses, three-quarter-length pants, some of whom never served in the army, some smoking illegal grass, would then get their hands off the junta's money-box and stop interpreting, without any authority, the holy budget, and especially the sections on defense.

Our junta wants the public to raise red banners like the ones in Tahrir Square, calling out, "The nation and the army together" - but with its interpretation. The people must not stick their hands in the army's pockets.

The difference between Egypt and Israel is that here there are two military juntas: the one that is appointed and the one that is elected. There is one that shapes the internal policy of the state through the enormous budget that it claims for itself, and there is one that approves these budgets for its twin. There is the one that goes to war to defend the homeland, and the one that determines what the borders of the motherland are that the army must defend.

In Egypt, the military junta does not camouflage itself, even when it moves into ministries. Those who carried a military rank continue to take pride in it also as "civilians."

In Israel, of the twin juntas, one wears uniforms and ranks, and the other wears suits and ties - but it is the same generals. And here is another discovery: That same junta that is now running Egypt would not have taken over were it not for the civilian mutiny that threw out the previous regime. Egypt did not undergo a military revolution, but a civilian one. The army is the one who extended a hand to the civilians. But this is Egypt, and it has never served as our model. It is, after all, a dictatorship.


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