Carrying out elections does not necessarily create democracy in the Arab Middle East, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon told foreign journalists Monday.
“We believe that you cannot reach democracy by elections. We believe it is a long process that should start with education”, he said.
Ya’alon, a former IDF Chief of Staff, explained that many Arab societies do not have the maturity to hold free and fair elections,” as evidenced in Egypt, Iran and other countries both before and after this year’s Arab Spring uprising.
He singled out the Palestinian Authority for not being mature enough to “exercise civil society," a remark that was immediately condemned as “racist” by PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib.
The United States has been instrumental in encouraging elections in the Middle East, and its first success was in the Palestinian Authority five years ago. However, the results shocked then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who did not expect Hamas, outlawed in the United States as a terrorist organization, to win a majority in the legislature.
“For Europe it took hundreds of years to bring about real democracy. In the Middle East, we are at the beginning of the first century of democracy,” Ya’alon said in reply to a question concerning the recent voting in Egypt.
Results from the first round of elections in Egypt last month, protested by many as being corrupted by bribery and other anti-democratic methods, gave the radical Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Muslim parties a majority.
The election in Iran more than two years ago sparked protests that it was rigged in favor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose regime brutally suppressed demonstrations.
Ya’alon said on Tuesday that Tunisia, where the Arab Spring rebellions began and which carried out elections two months ago, was “mature enough for democracy.”
He added, “We long for the day when Israel will be one of many democracies in the Middle East.”