Israeli, Palestinian negotiators discuss Egypt and the Middle EastPublished: February 18, 2011
Former Israeli negotiator Daniel Levy and former adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team Amjad Atallah debunked the idea that the revolutions in Egypt and throughout the Middle East would be detrimental to Israel in a talk Thursday evening in Usdan’s International Lounge.
The talk, titled “What do the Israelis and Palestinians want, and can they each deliver?” quickly strayed from its initial topic as the speakers discussed what Atallah described as a “time pregnant with promise.
“The last time there was a resurrection in the Middle East was about 2,000 years ago and to see what looked like the corpse of the Arab body politic rise up and claim its place in sunshine and history gives me goosebumps,” Atallah said.
Atallah said the protests in Egypt had been misrepresented as being bad for Israel.
“They are demanding accountability, freedom and democracy,” Atallah said. “In not a single place have they been demanding Islamic law. No one has burned an American flag. No one has burned an Israeli flag.”
Levy agreed saying the American and Israeli media views the protests in Egypt and the Middle East through a “westernized lens” of a moderate versus a fanatic government.
“The people of Egypt under Mubarak didn’t say ‘oh good, this is a moderate government,’” he said. “But for some reason in this country it has been filtered through an attempt at scaremongering people.
“What has been fantastic to me about these revolutions is the reassertion of the basic human dignity of Arab and Muslim people after a decade of what since 9/11 has been somewhat characterized by demonization.”
Levy said that while Israelis believed that the Mubarak regime was good for securing peace in the region, “it was a false bargain.”
“We were really dealing with regimes that were illegitimate,” he said, explaining that in order for Israel to have security, it must be in treaties with governments that represent their people’s opinions.
“The legitimacy of Israel in the Middle East has to be based on more than the Egyptian security services,” he said.
Levy said a key issue in winning over the Egyptian populace is the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
“We can’t deny the Palestinians the same freedoms that everyone else is flocking to their town square to fight for,” he said. “If we can get this right, then this is an uplifting moment not just for Egypt and the Arab nations but for Israel as well.”
Atallah agreed and explained that a key misunderstanding the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that “statehood” is confused with “freedom.”
“Unfortunately, the two do not overlap,” he said, explaining that the statehood that is offered by the Israelis does not give the Palestinians autonomy and power over their own society.
“The ire of the masses is not directed at Israel for existing,” he said. “It is anger for Israel oppressing Palestinians. If we want Israel to have a beneficial relationship with the new Egypt, that has to change.”