By Jennifer Lipman
February 15, 2011
Which would you prefer? You’re at an ice cream shop, and you can either have a scoop of an untested flavour – one that might turn out to be cookie dough fabulous, but might also be rum ‘n’ raisin terrible – or go for the boring chocolate one, like you always do.
Would you take the risk, step into the unknown? Your reward for such intrepid behaviour could be more like a punishment; you could end up with a cone you don’t want. But you could get something wonderful, something better than you’d imagined.
Democracy is the untested flavour. It doesn’t come with a disclaimer, it’s not “rule of the people, except when…”. You either have it, or you don’t – like what you get, or lump it (until the next election).
Now that the Egyptian protesters have succeeded in pushing out President Mubarak, the country could well be on the road to rule of the people.
The fear, in Washington, Jerusalem and good number of other Western capitals, is that the flavour the Egyptian people will go for will be that of the Muslim Brotherhood, a repeat of Hamas’ electoral win in the Palestinian elections five years ago.
It’s a worry, not least because if there is an Islamist government in Egypt one if its first moves could well be to tear up the Camp David Accords.
But, as I said, you don’t get a get-out-of-democracy free cause, and it can only be a good thing that more people in the Middle East take control of their destinies. Being the only functioning democracy in the region is a source of pride for Israel, as well it should be, but it’s still an honour that would be better shared.
But there seems to be rather more of a pick-and-choose mentality elsewhere in the Middle East. Take Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi – this week calling on the Palestinians to take inspiration from Egypt and make now “a time of popular revolutions”, last month condemning the Tunisian uprising as dangerous.
Which is it, Gaddafi? Why are you “pained” to see Tunisia seek rule of the people, but desperate for more Arab states to “create a problem for the world” by demonstrating?
Likewise, it’s good to see Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waxing lyrical about the "right" of Egyptians to protest against Mubarak and his sympathetic stance on the United States. He said last week: "It's your right to be free. It's your right to exercise your will and sovereignty ... and choose the type of government and the rulers."
It’s a shame Ahmadinejad and his cronies don’t want to extend that “right” to the Iranian people. Iran’s police are out in force crushing any traces of Tahrir Square-style uprisings, while the Green Revolution heroes and opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been placed under house arrest.
It seems Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad want two scoops of ice cream. Rather greedy, one might say.