JERUSALEM, Nov. 12 — Even before the American elections, a certain wariness had crept into the intimate friendship between Israel and the United States. The summer war in Lebanon produced questions in Washington about the competence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In Jerusalem, there were worries about the American approach to Iran and the Palestinians.
In theory, the two countries share a vision for a modern Middle East in which a thriving Israel would be accepted by its neighbors. But the Israelis balk at President Bush’s embrace of regional change through promotion of Arab democracy. They view his effort as naïve and counterproductive, because it brings Islamists and Iranian clients to power.
Israel, said Yossi Alpher, a former negotiator, has been highly skeptical of the idea of pushing democracy among Arab nations where the only organized opposition parties are linked to militants. It is a lot safer from Israel’s perspective to deal with stable, if autocratic, states like Jordan and Egypt.When Ms. Rice “looked at the damage in Beirut and said these are ‘the birth pangs of the new Middle East,’ I cringed, because I thought the Bush people had learned their lesson after the election of Hamas,” Mr. Alpher said. “For Israel to manage, we need more of the old Middle East, not the new Middle East.”