“We need to understand that we are living on a volcano.” That’s a comment from retired Major General Ya’acov Amidror quoted in today’s Jerusalem Post.
It sums up quite nicely what’s happening in the Middle East right now. Tens of thousands of demonstrators are in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in Egypt. Hezbollah is consolidating its hold on power by the appointment of a pro-Iranian prime minister this week. The terror group Hezbollah is now the de facto power in Lebanon. Yemen is experiencing demonstrations that could topple its government. This is all follows the fall of the Tunisian government days ago.
Could the Middle East be going through a seismic change?
In Egypt, the stakes are huge. The Mubarak government – more like a dictatorship – is repugnant. It abuses human rights and suppresses free speech. It But what will happen if Egypt’s dictatorship of 30 years crumbles? The worst case scenario is that if the Mubarak government falls, it might be replaced by an Islamist theocracy, an outcome far worse than the Mubarak regime.
That government could be led by a group called the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in 1928, it wants to impose Sharia (Islamic) law in Egypt. Think of it like the grandfather of modern day terror groups like Al Qaeda and Hamas. They enjoy a great deal of support in Egypt and it appears they’re beginning to take advantage of the turmoil in the streets.
An Islamist government led by the Muslim Brotherhood would likely abrogate its peace treaty with Israel and leave the Jewish state more isolated ever in the Middle East. In effect, a bad neighborhood would get far worse.
So the choices Egypt faces are not good. As one Middle East analyst put it: “Either way in Egypt there is going to have a dictatorship. The question is, do they want Mubarak's (and his son and chosen successor, Gamal) dictatorship or an Islamic dictatorship?”
Some point to Muhammed ElBaradei as a possible successor to Mubarak. That could be but often in these unstable and uncertain times, the most ruthless group often succeeds and that might not be ElBaradei.
It also quite plausible Mubarak will weather this threat to his regime. If his military stands with him, he might survive. But as the events in Tunisia demonstrate, no one quite knows how this will play out.
One thing is certain; it’s a time to pray for Egypt, Israel, the Middle East and for the peace of Jerusalem!