Arabs are ready for democracy, but not for peace with Israel

May 20, 2011

Regarding your editorial "Obama and the Arab Spring" (May 20), your assessment that the president laid out a "pragmatic, nuanced approach to the region" is not borne out by the realities on the ground.

The region is still embroiled in chaos and conflict. Most recently Coptic Christians and Islamists have clashed in Egypt. Libya seems mired in stalemate. Bahrain and Syria continue repression and murder of protesters on the streets. And Saudi Arabia's royal family is not even remotely ready for democracy. The Saudis have sent in their own soldiers to aid Bahrain's repression.

In short, the road to Arab freedom is filled with treacherous pitfalls. Islamists and extremists could hijack the people's movements at any time.

Meanwhile, Iran's pro-democracy movement has wilted in the iron grip of its ruling mullahs. Iran remains a threat to Israel. It has not relinquished terror as a tactic. Bashar Assad of Syria waxes bold with Iranian support and the Palestinians want to bypass the peace process and gain recognition from the United Nations.

In the face of these disturbing facts, President Obama's laying out the Israeli Palestinian conflict in the context of the Arab Spring seems entirely premature.

The Arab Spring is in the throes of a painful birth. It has to undergo a long process of evolution before it matures into democracies across the region. The only thing certain about the Arab Spring is uncertainty.

Israelis understand this better than anyone else, and they are not willing to pledge their security to the forces of democracy sweeping the Arab World.

If there is one thing that marks these democratic forces, including the many peaceful protesters on the streets of Egypt and Syria, it is a visceral hatred for the so-called Zionists.

President Obama should not put a benign face on that long-standing irrational animosity.

Usha Nellore, Bel Air

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