It says a great deal about the fear and paranoia that the Arab street reserves for Israel, that some credence is being attached to claims that Israeli agent provocateurs are helping to stoke up opposition to protestors demanding democracy in Egypt. The claim is that plain clothes Israeli agents are helping to orchestrate the pro-Mubarak mob – an improbable collection of off duty policemen and thugs, oddly reminiscent of the Workers Militia in one time communist East Germany.
Now let’s be clear, Israeli agents are capable of a good deal. How the world applauded when Mossad tracked down Adolf Eichmann to South America and brought him back to stand in Israel on charges of crimes against humanity. How the world marvelled, when Israeli agents struck against the hijackers at Entebbe Airport. More recently, much of world opinion has been rather less impressed with Israeli agents masquerading with false European passports in order to assassinate opponents in the Gulf, or jumping down ropes to cause mayhem and violence to some of those trying to break the blockade of Gaza.
But Mossad agents, masquerading as Mubarak supporters in Cairo and Alexandria? That sounds a little far fetched. Until absolute proof is produced, this one is too difficult to swallow.
Of one thing we can be sure however, Israel is watching the fast moving events in the Maghreb with a sense of real trepidation. The old order is breaking like the Arctic ice under the thawing rays of the first Spring Sun. Whether it is the armed forces that take over in Egypt, or a moderate secular democrat, or indeed the Muslim Brotherhood, it will never be the same again for Israel. The peace agreement signed between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin thirty years ago may not be immediately broken by any new Egyptian Government, but it seems unlikely that it will be observed to the extent that Egypt has effectively been complicit in the blockade of Gaza. That strip of misery is one of the most populous places on the planet. It is also effectively one huge ‘Bantustan’ or reservation. The Arab street regards it as an open prison, and part of the revolt against Mubarak is the belief that he has kow towed to the United States and allowed the Israelis to get on with whatever they want to get on with in Gaza, the west Bank and Jerusalem.
The waves of protest and revolution sweeping across the Maghreb and into the Arabian Peninsula cannot pass Israel by. Had Israel reached a sensible solution with the Palestinians, and accepted a Palestinian State based on the 1967 boundaries, it could even now be offering its Arab neighbours lessons in democracy – since Israel is of course one of the very few democracies in the region. Instead, all Israel can do is wait nervously as the storm approaches.