After Tunisia

It is less than four weeks since Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was driven from power following the violent protests that followed the suicide of the young, unemployed college graduate, Mohammed Bouazizi, who sold fruit and vegetables illegally in Sidi Bouzid.

What has been dubbed as the Jasmine Revolution triggered mass street protests in Egypt and the Yemen that have not only destabilized the governments in those two countries, but have also created anxiety in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, where King Abdullah II has just dismissed his government to appease street protesters. However, many are dissatisfied with the new prime minister and thirty-six tribal leaders have signed a statement saying that “the Tunisian and Egyptian hurricane will come to Jordan, sooner or later.”

King Abdullah has every reason to feel nervous. The signatories are drawn from within the ruling hierarchy’s chief tribal groups, who take issue with Queen Rania’s Palestinian background and also resent her highly visible role in the country’s male dominated society.

From Israel’s perspective, the events of the past month are particularly worrying. They come on top of the appointment of Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati as Lebanon’s new prime minister.

What is no less disturbing is that Mohamed El Baradei, in an interview with the German journalist Erich Follath, is quoted as having said: “The Israelis need to grasp that it’s impossible to make peace with a single man. At the moment, they have a peace treaty with Mubarak, but not one with the Egyptian people.” The implications of that statement are crystal clear.

If the treaty signed between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat doesn’t count for anything and the peace accord between Yithak Rabin and King Hussein is equally meaningless, one cannot help but wonder what the future holds in terms of reaching an accommodation with the Palestinians and, indeed, what the value would be of any such agreement.

Micky Boyden

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