Zvi Barel
Haaretz (Opinion)
November 30, 2011 - 1:00am

Who's the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? What is the exact name of the head of Tunisia's Al-Nahda party? And who heads the Islamic Movement in Morocco? One could expect these names to be common knowledge in a country anxious about the "Islamist take-over" of the Middle East and concerned that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt will collapse.

But why learn the new names among our rivals when it's more convenient, easier and mainly more threatening to talk about "Islam." When a threat has a collective name, it removes responsibility from Israel's shoulders for poor relations with Arab countries and their future regimes. A collective enemy puts Israel in a good position - in the same spot as "the West." Suddenly, Israel finds comfort because "the Moroccan Islam" victorious in the parliamentary elections is not like "the Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood" and is closer to "Turkish Islam," which has become "good Islam" after briefly being "the Islam of the radical [Turkish prime minister] Erdogan."

The increased political strength of parties with a religious platform should not come as a surprise. Before the revolutions, the constitutions in most of the Arab countries defined them as states in which religious law was the main source for legislation. When the majority's way of life of is based, among other things, on religious elements, it's only natural that part of the government will automatically fall into the pockets of the religious parties. Someone for whom this equation is not clear, can replace the words "the Arab countries" with the term "the state of Israel," where the religious parties not only dictate the way of life but also foreign policy.

The way of life of the citizens in the Arab countries does not interest Israel. Neither does the Arab democracy likely to grow out of the religious regimes. Israel prefers to sever the connection between the Muslim citizens and their countries' foreign policies. It did so for decades in its relations with Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinians. Peace, in its Israeli version, is made with leaders, preferably autocratic ones, and not with peoples. The leaders, so it is believed, will force the people to love Israel. This explains the amazement, anger and frustration at the cold peace with Egypt and Jordan. When Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein were in power, it was not possible to accuse "Islam" of freezing the peace. Left-wing intellectuals are not radical Muslims and far from it. Consider Egyptian writers like Alaa al-Aswany (author of "The Yacoubian Building" ) or Sun Allah Ibrahim, who refused to accept a prize from the Egyptian culture minister because a corrupt country, one that has relations with Israel, the occupier, does not have the right to award cultural prizes. The journalists' unions, the writers and film directors in Egypt and Jordan have boycotted Israel and are continuing to do so, not because their members are religious (most of them are liberal ) but because of Israel's policy in Jerusalem and the territories. During the revolution in Tahrir Square, as well, when Israel was almost completely absent from the public, religious and secular dialogue in Egypt, there were some among the "youths of the revolution," the Facebook generation, and the large numbers of surfers on the Internet, who considered the agreement on gas that Mubarak had signed with Israel to be a crime of corruption for which he must be punished. They were punctilious about preserving the cold peace and using it as a means to build a dividing wall between the regime and themselves. If Israel wishes to "warm up" the peace, they said, it will have to pay the price in Palestinian coin. This was not an "Islamist" demand. Hard as it is to believe, those who made this demand were completely secular.

That's a price Israel did not want to pay - and still doesn't. Between a warm peace with Egypt and building housing at Har Homa or the Migron outpost, the outposts have won. Better a cold peace, with an arrangement about gas and oil, and a mediator with Hamas, than a warm peace, which is so expensive. Just as before Mubarak's fall, Israel relies on American aide to Egypt as a guarantee of the peace treaty's continued existence and of the appropriate amount of chill.

As usual, Israel is beginning to get ready the no-Egyptian-partner. He will be an Islamist, radical and anti-Semitic, who does not understand the doctrine of winking that Mubarak employed. Because of this no-partner, peace will collapse. After all, everyone understands what an Islamist threat is.


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