Last year’s Arab Spring is quickly becoming an Islamic Spring, with dire consequences for Israel.
Israel, already surrounded by enemies, now faces a newly empowered Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the west and a wave of new protests and opposition tactics in Jordan to the east. To the north, Iran’s regional proxy, Syria – along with its allies in Hizbullah – continues to suppress its people, contributing to destabilization just across the Golan Heights.
As hostile powers continue their efforts to destroy our greatest ally in the Middle East, it is incumbent upon the United States to adjust our policies to promote democracy and stability in a volatile region.
This year in New York, we took the lead in addressing this problem with the Iran Divestment Act – one of the strongest measures passed in the country aimed at weakening the financial power of the Islamic Republic. No longer will the state do business with companies that support Iran’s energy sector. No longer will New York’s pension fund aid Iran’s terror-supporting activities.
Yet while New York and the country as a whole have undertaken efforts to divest from and sanction the Iranian regime, our tax dollars continue to support countries that lock arms with Iran. Just a few short weeks ago, the United States agreed to resume sending aid worth more than one billion dollars a year to Egypt, even after the Muslim Brotherhood – a radical jihadist party backed by Iran – claimed a plurality in the post-revolution parliamentary elections and recently went back on its agreement not to field a presidential candidate.
That candidate, Muhammad Mursi, was introduced to the public earlier this month by the cleric Safwat Higazi, who said in his endorsement of Mursi, “Our capital shall not be in Cairo, Mecca or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing. Our cry shall be: ‘Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem.’ ”
As a prelude of things to come in the sphere of Israeli-Arab relations, Egypt recently turned its back on the U.S.-brokered Camp David Accord by canceling its natural gas contract just five years into the agreement. The Camp David Accords call for normalized economic relations between the two countries; there’s nothing normal about canceling a critical natural gas contract with a friendly nation for political purposes.
The threat of Iran’s spreading influence and anti-Israel sentiment is omnipresent and growing among countries that receive U.S. aid money. Jordan, for instance, receives $660 million in taxpayer dollars a year. Two weeks ago in Amman, demonstrators burned American and Israeli flags in the streets and called for an end to the longstanding peace agreement between their country and Israel. Lebanon, where elements of the country controlled by Hizbullah waged war against Israel only a few years ago, received $246 million in aid this past year.
If the U.S. really wants to promote peace and stability in the Middle East, it must stand up for Israel by linking receipt of foreign aid to a country’s ability to make peace with Israel, explicitly exempting countries whose governments accept money from Iran.
Any country that takes Iran’s funds is not worthy of aid from the American taxpayer. We should hold foreign powers to the same standards we hold domestic corporations and our own government.
We must not allow the revolutions of the Arab Spring to poison fragile peace agreements that Israelis have had with certain neighbors for decades. Like earlier generations that stood up against the Soviet “domino effect” in Eastern Europe, the United States and the West have to stand up to Iran and ensure that it does not gain a foothold in countries where budding democracies could turn into hostile Islamic states.
It is America’s moral and strategic imperative to minimize Iranian influence in the Muslim world; limiting American aid to countries that embrace Iran would be a significant step toward that goal.
Rory Lancman is a New York State Assembly member representing the 25th AD in Queens. He has served as an officer in New York’s 42nd infantry division and as a community board member. He is running to represent New York’s 6th Congressional District in the June 26 Democratic primary.