By Ray Fleming

FOR the first five or six days of the Egyptian uprising the politicians of Israel remained commendably quiet, no doubt recognising the knife edge on which events in Cairo and other Egyptian cities were balanced.

However, their restraint has now snapped and several leading figures have spoken their minds. “They want Egypt to become another Gaza, run by radical forces that oppose everything that the democratic world stands for” said prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who apparently overlooked the fact that President Mubarak's regime left a lot to be desired in respect of what the democratic world stands for.

It is understandable that Israel should be concerned at any shift in the pragmatic if not cordial relationship which it has had with Egypt; but to overlook the passionate commitment to democratic reform which the demonstrators have shown and to assume the onset of an Islamic state is respectful neither to the good sense nor to the bravery of those whose persistence and patience has impressed the whole world.

Opinion polls in Israel have shown an expectation that life will become more difficult with any change of regime in Egypt. But Anshel Pfeffer, a journalist on the left-of-centre newspaper Haaretz got to the point when he asked, “Are we afraid we won't be able to bask in the title of the only democracy in the Middle East? Doesn't Egypt deserve democracy too?”