Mideast unrest to continue

By Adam Gonn
Print E-mail Xinhua, February 25, 2011
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech on Wednesday that the turmoil in the Middle East is set to continue for a long time.

People attend a protest in the eastern Libyan town of Derna on Feb. 23, 2011. [Nasser Nouri/Xinhua]

People attend a protest in the eastern Libyan town of Derna on Feb. 23, 2011. [Nasser Nouri/Xinhua] 

Israel hopes the Arab countries will undergo a process of democratization, which would be in Israel's interests, said Netanyahu, predicting that the unrest would not slow down any time soon and could go on for many years.

His remarks were a change of tone. Israeli officials have bemoaned the loss of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was forced to step down after mass protests swept the country.

Over the last two months, people of many Middle East countries have protested against their leaders, calling for democracy and economic reform. Local analysts share the Israeli prime minister's view that what is happening now might well continue for some time, saying that the region is witnessing a new phase of history, both in terms of scope and ideology.

Unsure future

Prof. Avraham Diskin of the department of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem believes that Netanyahu's remarks need to be seen in light of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying that both are long and complicated processes while the result is not always expected by those who initiated them.

"The Arab world, like the Palestinians, has changed dramatically. There is no doubt about it," Diskin said, adding that in the past there have been demonstrations and revolutions in the region but not like what we are seeing now.

Diskin said it's very important to set the right conditions, such as reduction of poverty, before one pushes for democracy, otherwise the result may not be the one hoped for. This must be taken under serious consideration because "the conditions for democracy are really fragile," he said.

"It's like the peace process," said Diskin, "We have to hope and pray for democracy because it's in Israel's interests. But whether it's around the corner? I doubt it."

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