Netanyahu's Adviser on Democracy vs. Stability

Chuck Todd asked me yesterday, off-air, whether I thought that Israelis -- the Israelis currently in power in Jerusalem -- would one day regret their support for Hosni Mubarak. He noted an irony here: The Middle East's only democracy (well, Iraq is a democracy, too, at this point) offering no support for advocates of democratic change in a country right next door. (Read Elliott Abrams on why this might be so). Chuck's is a very good question. I can't answer what Bibi and his cabinet might think one day about their support for Mubarak, but I do know that one of Bibi's closest advisers, Ron Dermer, co-wrote a book with Natan Sharansky -- a book made famous when George W. Bush offered an enthusiastic endorsement -- in which they argued that peace will only come to the Middle East when its countries are democracies. This is what Sharansky and Dermer wrote about the people they call "freedom's skeptics" (the book is written in the first-person voice of Sharansky):

"(T)he arguments peddled by the skeptics sound all too familiar.

They insist that there are certain cultures and civilizations that are not compatible with democracy and certain peoples who do not desire it. They argue that the Arabs need and want iron-fisted rulers, that they have never had democracy and never will, and that their "values are not our values."

Once again, it is asserted that democracy in certain parts of the world is not in the best interests of the "West." While it will be readily admitted that the current regimes in the Middle East suppress freedom, those regimes are believed to also suppress a far worse alternative: the radicals and fundamentalists who might win democratic elections. The message is clear: It is better to deal with a Middle Eastern dictatorship that is our friend than a democratic regime that is our enemy.

It is Goldblog's position that governments cannot repress their way to stability forever. This, of course, is why the Iranian regime will eventually fall. It is obviously in America's long-term interest, and Israel's long-term interest, to support democracy over stability. The short-term price could be heavy, but there's really no avoiding it.


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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