Jerusalem: Israel`s vice premier declared
on Monday that many Arab countries aren`t ready for democracy a
comment sure to rankle many in the Middle East, where
thousands have died and thousands more have risked their lives
in uprisings against brutal dictators.
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel learned a
bitter lesson about democracy in the Middle East when Islamist
Hamas militants came to power in free elections in Palestinian
territories in 2006. The following year, the group violently
overran the Gaza Strip, ousting forces loyal to President
Democratic elections, Yaalon said, don`t necessarily make
for democratic practices.
"We are not sure, to say the least, what we witness now
is real democratisation," he told a group of foreign
journalists. "Hamas exploited the democratic rules of the game
... to impose a non-democratic regime."
"We believe that you can`t reach democracy by elections,"
he added. "We believe in a long process. It should start by
Tunisia which does not border Israel — might be ripe
for democracy, he said. But Palestinians, he said, are not.
"We believe the Palestinian society is not mature (enough) to
exercise civil society," he said.
Immediately after Hamas` election victory, the militant
group "began to kill the opposition and to throw the (rival)
Fatah activists from the 18th floor of a skyscraper," Yaalon
said, referring to an event during the 2007 takeover.
Palestinians argue that Israel and the West applied
double standards, by preaching democracy but then refusing to
recognise the results of the 2006 election, widely perceived
as fair and free.
Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khatib said Yaalon harbors
a "racist attitude" that is "unacceptable from an official in
the state that is occupying Palestine and is contributing
daily to its suffering and problems."
"Israel is the last country in the world that is allowed
to speak about human rights because Israel was, throughout the
occupation period, violating the rights of the Palestinians
through unjustified killing, including of children,
demolishing of houses, (and) confiscating of land," he said.