The Magazine

Reading Them the Riyadh Act

From the July 4 / July 11, 2005 issue: Condoleezza Rice prods our dictatorial allies.

Jul 4, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 40 • By JONATHAN KARL
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

All this Arab democracy talk is viewed with apprehension in Israel, long hailed as the only democracy in the Middle East. The Israelis have watched Hamas and Hezbollah fare well in elections and would rather deal with reliable Arab despots than virulently anti-Israel Arab populists. "Let's assume a quick democratization of Egypt or Jordan," says Israeli political scientist Yehezkel Dror. "Will it strengthen their peace with Israel? Certainly not. The ruling elites understand the need for peace with Israel. But the public in the streets, the masses in the marketplaces, definitely don't."

Rice isn't necessarily pushing for quick democratization, but she, like the president, is willing to take short-term risks for a chance to make the history books. As one of her senior advisers told me: "As goes the democracy effort, so goes her legacy." And so goes the president's.

Jonathan Karl is senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News.