Setting Standards: How the West Should Respond to Political Islam

(BICOM-UK) Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog - Islamist parties have taken the opportunity provided to them by the "Arab Spring" to achieve power through elections, benefiting from their strong organizational structures and good public image in a traditional societal environment. This phenomenon has sparked a debate in the West between optimists, who believe these parties will moderate to cope with the realities of political power, and pessimists, who fear they will simply use democracy to gain power and promote radical, ideological agendas. Islamists themselves are not monolithic, and are struggling to balance practical political demands with their ideological roots. At a regional level they are offered two competing models of Islamic governance in Turkey and Iran. The West should use the leverage it gains from its economic support to apply criteria for dealing with Islamist parties, in order to influence their development. Those criteria should relate to the Islamist parties' positions on: non-violence, adherence to values of democracy, the application of Sharia law in public life, and attitudes to the West and Israel. For the sake of the peace process, it is particularly important to maintain strict conditions with regard to Hamas, and to make clear to Egyptian Islamists that tampering with the Israel-Egypt peace treaty is a clear red line. The writer served as chief of staff and senior military aide and advisor to four Israeli ministers of defense over the last decade and was previously the head of the IDF's Strategic Planning Division.

2012-02-17 00:00:00

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