Pro-Israel groups cool to Egyptian protests

Why two leading pro-Israel groups are not embracing the popular upheaval in Egypt

Topics: Egyptian Protests, Israel, War Room,

Pro-Israel groups cool to Egyptian protestsProtests in Iran in 2009, left. Right: Protesters in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011.

It’s hardly a secret that Israel is worried about the events in Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1979 under the leadership of Hosni Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat. More recently, Egypt has cooperated with Israel on the blockade of Gaza.

The Israelis are worried about, among other things, the possibility that an Islamic movement could gain power if the Mubarak regime were to fall. So I was interested today to see reaction from pro-Israel groups in the United States — which were favorably disposed to the democratic aspirations of the Green movement in Iran in 2009 — to the Egyptian pro-democracy protests.

This afternoon I spoke with Alan Elsner, senior director of communications at the Israel Project, an influential D.C.-based pro-Israel group. He has an analysis that is leading the group’s website today that argues the Arab protests highlight Israel’s “stability.” But the piece does not explicitly support or oppose the Egyptian protests. I asked Elsner if the Israel Project is taking a position.

“Obviously, like all Americans and Israelis and others, we are watching with great attentiveness,” he said. “We understand very well that this is a regime that has been there for 30 years and is an authoritarian government. It hasn’t allowed free and fair elections — we understand that. We also understand that this is a government that made peace with Israel in 1979 and Mubarak’s predecessor paid for that peace with his life.”

Elsner said that while it is too early to tell what a post-Mubarak government could look like — and whether Mubarak will even fall — there are concerns: ”He has observed the treaty and that treaty has become a bulwark of stability. Should Mubarak go, there is concern about the kind of government that would replace him, and whether it would be inclined to maintain that treaty.”

You Might Also Like

I asked Elsner about the Israel Project’s previous support for a “Stand for Freedom in Iran” rally in September 2009, held in the wake of the Green Movement protests, which emphasized lofty ideals of human rights and democracy. Why is the group not supporting the same ideals in Egypt? 

“There is a huge difference between the governments of Iran and of Egypt. The government of Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel and has observed it,” Elsner said, also noting the antagonistic view of Iran toward Israel.  He said the Israel Project is not to his knowledge planning any programs in support of the Egyptian protests, saying it will likely ”be regarded as an internal matter for the people of Egypt.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, had much the same view when I spoke to him this afternoon. 

“We’ve always supported the movement toward democratization,” he said. “At the same time, you don’t want to see upheaval that could be exploited by extremist elements in the region. We would be very concerned that elements would come into power that would not sustain the involvement of Egypt in the peace process and sustain the commitments in the peace agreements.”

Hoenlein added: ”Getting rid of Mubarak will create such disruption and potentially dangerous change” — he would prefer an orderly process of reform to revolution.

So for now, at least, don’t look for American pro-Israel groups to do much in the way of supporting the Egyptian protesters.

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>