Yesterday Defense Secretary Leon Panetta slammed Israel for not "coming to the table," for peace talks with hostile Arab countries and the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israelis are feeling even more uncomfotable with the current Middle East crisis and the rise of Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a result of the Arab Spring.
For Israelis, the Islamist election surge in Egypt is depressing confirmation of a deeply primal fear: An inhospitable region is becoming more hostile still.
This sentiment has been accompanied by a bittersweet sense that Israel was dismissed as alarmist when it warned months ago that the Arab Spring — widely perceived as the doing of liberals yearning to be free — could lead to Islamist governments.
Speaking for most people here, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the emerging result of the first round of parliamentary voting in Egypt “very, very disturbing” and expressed concern about the fate of the landmark 1979 Egyptian Israeli peace treaty.
“We are very concerned,” added Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who has long warned that Egypt could potentially pose a threat. Speaking to The Associated Press Sunday, Steinitz expressed hope that Egypt “will not shift to some kind of Islamic tyranny.”
There is a sense that moderate Islamists are pulling off something of a con, lulling opponents into complacency, projecting a seemingly benign piety to exploit a naive public’s hunger for clean government after years of corrupt, despotic rule. And there is a long memory of Iran, once friendly to Israel, where secular forces including the military helped depose the Shah in 1979 only to swiftly be steamrolled by fundamentalists.
“These upheavals are a bad thing for the modern world, for Israel,” said Yitzhak Sklar, a 50-year-old Jerusalem resident. “There is something in their religion that pushes them to extremism. Their religion calls for murdering anyone who opposes them.”
Where is Obama on this issue? Is he addressing the concerns of Israel? Obama has yet to visit Israel as president, but somehow managed to squeeze in a trip to Egypt early in his term.