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Europe Assures Israel on Arab Islamists

Published: 30/12/2011 01:35:41 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Sensing a growing Israeli fears following the Arab Spring elections that tipped Islamists to the top, Europe's envoy to the Southern Mediterran (more)

CAIRO - Sensing a growing Israeli fears following the Arab Spring elections that tipped Islamists to the top, Europe's envoy to the Southern Mediterranean Bernardino Leon assured Israel over its future in the Middle East, bringing a calming message as to the impact the changes will have on Israel.

"I know the feeling here about the Arab Spring. It is not going to be easy but the real winter is what we had before - countries with corruption and torture," Leon told Haaretz on Friday, December 30.

“The transition to democracy can take decades, but if this line will continue it will definitely be better.”

Over 2011, several Arab countries have been swept by popular uprisings.

In Egypt, long-standing president Hosni Mubarak was swept out of power in February after an 18-day revolt.

Similar revolutions swept the leaders of Tunisia and Libya from power. Syria and Yemen are also witnessing similar revolts.

Appointed last July, Leon's responsibilities included the EU response to the Arab Spring.

Over the past few months, Leon has shuttled between Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya to begin to open lines of communication and dialogue between the EU and the new parties rising in those countries, particularly the Islamists.

His visit to Israel was to assure it over the EU's position on the regime changes in the Arab world.

Leon met with National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and with more than 20 Israeli ambassadors to the EU, on Thursday.

"I understand the feeling of uncertainty - but my message to my Israeli friends is that the result of the transition will be different if the international community will support it,” he said.

“If we wait as spectators it might not happen - but if we engage it can work.

“This is not only voting - it is also jobs and this will not come without investment and the international community," Leon said.

Democratic Shift

Following the latest Arab Spring elections, Leon confirmed that maximizing Israeli fears on the region's stability were baseless.   

"It is much more difficult to have wars with democracies," Leon told Haaretz.

In Egypt's first democratic elections in decades, Islamists swept the first two phases of Egypt's parliamentary elections which sent shockwaves through Israel.

The Muslim Brotherhood's party gained more than 40% of the vote, while Salafists got nearly 30%.

Moderate Islamist Ennahda party won most votes in last month's elections in Tunisia.

In Morocco, moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) had won parliamentary elections and formed the first Islamic government in the country.

For the EU envoy, the newly elected governments would be busy reforming the problems in their countries; therefore Israel will be a marginal issue.

"The focus will be on internal issues and on building new societies," he said.

"They need stability to create jobs for the people and they will have to move from the symbolic world to the real world to bring back tourists and investors."

He said the Muslim Brotherhood will have to move from the comfort of the opposition, to a point of bearing responsibility.

"Those parties will have to experience running a country and providing services to the people - so things will be more practical than metaphysical and they will deal more with internal issues than international problems," Leon said.

“If tourists do not come back to Egypt - they will lose the next election.”

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