On the first day of the Egyptian riots, I was perhaps the only one to say that the situation is very serious. Protests in Cairo’s central square do not happen like in Washington or Amman: the Egyptian government has zero tolerance for them. Still the threat to Mubarak’s presidency was manageable.

That changed when the army put on a mere show of riot control: a handful of tanks with fighter jets flying overhead, and nothing more. We did not witness a military putsch, but an act of treason. For three decades, Egyptian generals have drifted into the American orbit. Simple and snobbish people, they became debauched by receptions and high-level contacts. They reported more to the Pentagon and White House than to Mubarak. When the time came to defend the Egyptian regime, the generals thought of democracy, human rights, and their American puppeteers rather than their duty to obey the president. The situation is immediately recognizable for Israelis, whose own generals routinely report to Washington. Both in Cairo and Tel Aviv, American diplomats have developed a habit of talking directly to local generals without bothering to proceed through regular diplomatic channels. Foreign diplomats often talk to generals one-on-one, without the presence of defense ministry officials. Fearful of their image in the eyes of their American masters, Egyptian generals did not nip the riots in the bud as Assad would have done—or as Mubarak once would have done. Their betrayal is only kept in check by the Republican Guards loyal to Mubarak.

Incited by the lack of suppression, the rioters quickly escalated their struggle. I do not subscribe to the view that the Obama administration ordered the protests; they are too stupid for that. The Egyptian debacle is a result of a series of half-truths and blunders. The United States did not support the anti-Mubarak groups, as Mubarak himself believes. Rather, sheepishly straight pro-democracy elements in the US State Dept extended token support to any Egyptian opposition groups who had the brains to utter the magical word, democracy. Opposition parties took that support from fringe officials as a proof of real American support for their cause, and Mubarak took it as proof of an American betrayal. The problem stems from the different political cultures: the Egyptian ruler cannot easily accept that the US administration has many policies, and many of its moves are ad hoc rather than a result of well-thought-out policies. In his world, governments which do not think carefully go down quickly, and officials who contradict the government’s line are sacked even quicker. So by 2009 Mubarak was at odds with the White House, not unlike Netanyahu. This estrangement prompted Obama to step up his support for anti-Mubarak elements instead of mending relations with the Middle East’s lynchpin. Obama’s miscalculation is surprising: a man assisted by America’s immense intelligence apparatus failed to understand that limited peace in the Middle East hinges on a single person, Mubarak. In Israel and the United States, leaders of various political stripes, mentalities, and intellectual abilities came and went while he sat on the Pharaoh’s throne overlooking the Muslim world. Mubarak provided in the war zone of the Middle East the kind of stability that passing democratic rulers could not. Even more, Mubarak stabilized the region after foreign democratic rulers had destabilized it with their solve-all policies and initiatives.

That was not about a name. Sadat—who was widely believed to have been assassinated on Mubarak’s orders, with US acquiescence—played a similar role. Any person of moderate intellect and considerable willpower would have fit the bill. The only prescription unacceptable in principle would have been a democratic merry-go-round of rulers in Egypt—and that is precisely what Obama demands with his democratization mantra.

American policies in Egypt are driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of goals and players. It must be totally irrelevant for the United States whether Egypt is a democracy or anything else. Some of America’s best friends are monarchies, and Mubarak’s Egypt is certainly not the vilest country around. The American concern with the democratization of Egypt is especially odd when compared to near-absence of American support for the Iranian protestors in 2009. America’s only legitimate goal in Egypt is maintaining that country’s cooperation with Israel. Any regime in Egypt which does otherwise would cause a political realignment in the Middle East: militant Sunni and Shiite blocs against Israel and one another. Democracy, human rights, and freedom for Egyptians should be of no concern to foreign powers, especially when their violations in Egypt are well within the regional norm.

The US administration greatly misreads the Muslim Brotherhood. True, it is a moderate organization, unlike the ayatollahs. But the ayatollahs were likewise moderate before the revolution—so much so that they were welcome guests in the West. They spoke of fighting corruption, of traditional values, charity, and similar things of universal importance. That changed when they came to power. We know a political organization by its fruit. The Brotherhood spawned Hamas (also initially a moderate charity), the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and scores of other terrorists, and it is hardly a necessary part of a democratic government.

Nor will other parties be able to contain the Muslim Brotherhood. Granted, secular opposition parties will increase their support base after liberalization. Today, the Brotherhood is the only significant opposition movement because it relies on a network of mosques, while secular parties lack a similar institutional structure. But by the time secular parties—many of which are virulently anti-Israeli—are able to blossom, the Muslim Brotherhood will already have transformed Egypt into a sharia state. Nor will the army help, because the army has been heavily infiltrated by the Brotherhood, and many of its officers are sympathetic to the Islamist cause. The Egyptian army lacks the staunch secularism of the Turkish army, and even the Turkish army is now being Islamicized.

Like the ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood will be more radical abroad than domestically. The Brotherhood already has a strong presence in Syria and Jordan. Acting through its Jordanian branch and through Jordan’s Palestinian majority, the Muslim Brotherhood will topple the monarchy in Jordan. Fatah in the West Bank will find it hard to resist the subversion by local Hamas and the Brotherhood in Jordan. Gaza will become a garrison state: unimpeded weapons deliveries from Sinai will allow Hamas to shell Israel while substantially stemming reprisals through Egyptian-led action in the UN. Most importantly, the Brotherhood will open the Rafah Crossing and subsidize Hamas, making Gaza into a relatively prosperous territory, which would boost Hamas’ popularity in Gaza and the West Bank. Victories in Gaza and Jordan would not even require the Brotherhood to dominate the Egyptian government. By its mere presence, the Brotherhood will force other parties into pan-Arab, pro-Islamic policies.

The Muslim Brotherhood will become Egypt’s bridge to Iran. The alliance of Iran, Turkey, and Egypt will prove unmanageable for the West and too tempting for the Russians to resist engagement.

In Sudan, the Brotherhood will rekindle the Islamic revolution abandoned by Osama.

The biggest problem would be the domino effect on Saudi Arabia. A month ago, the Saudis openly bragged of their intention to render two nuclear devices from Pakistan. It has widely been believed for years that the Saudis own several Pakistani nukes in return for financing the Pakistani nuclear program. It is a matter of contention, however, whether these nukes are held in Saudi Arabia or in Pakistan. The Obama administration voiced no opposition to Saudi planes being kept at a military base in Pakistan, so presumably the nukes are either twenty miles from Riyadh or under Saudi control in Pakistan. But the Saudi monarchy has zero chance of surviving an Al Qaeda revolt if Egypt falls to the Muslim Brotherhood. Unlike the Egyptian regime, the Saudi monarchy relies on its security service rather than its meager army. Saudi riot-control options are slim. So we can expect Islamists eventually to get hold of Saudi nuclear devices, along with the $120 billion-plus top-notch military gadgets the Saudis have procured from the United States in recent years. Cynics might reply that with nuclear weapons available to Islamists through North Korea and Pakistan, who cares about Saudi Arabia?

Both presidential candidates, Amr Moussa and El Baradei, must be the West’s nightmare. Moussa is a demagogue with a long history of anti-Israeli, anti-American rhetoric. In his capacity as the head of the Arab League, he has routinely defied the US and UN demands to lift the Arab embargo on Israel. El Baradei, in his capacity as IAEA chief, acted as a godfather to the Iranian nuclear program, and must be so respected by the ayatollahs that Egyptian rapprochement with Iran would be a no-brainer.

The Muslim Brotherhood will inherit a formidable Egyptian army bolstered by three decades of US military sales to Egypt. With or without formal control over the General Staff or Defense Ministry, the Brotherhood’s mere legitimization will boost its presence in the army. This is similar to Hezbollah’s infiltration of the Lebanese armed forces, which also were beefed up by US aid.

An Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood need not even fight Israel. It would boost the regional nuclear arms race by running the two research reactors. Such an Egypt would open the Sinai for African infiltrators into Israel and arms smugglers to Gaza. It will bother Israel with violations of the peace treaty, such as creating paramilitary units in Sinai from the local population and building dual-use installations. Egypt will return to its traditional role as the Arabs’ UN voice to condemn Israel. The Suez and the Red Sea will be open to Iranian shipments to Hamas. A huge body of information on Israel and her foreign activities accumulated by the Egyptian security service during the years of our cooperation will be made available to Iran. The cessation of US aid may even provide the Egyptian government with due cause to abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. As in Iran, the religious government in Egypt will eventually lose popularity, but by that time the citizens won’t be able to overthrow it easily, and in the meantime Israel’s troubles will multiply.

The Egyptian riots highlight the erosion of modern democracy into what can playfully be termed a mediacracy. Just as media in Israel brought down IDF Chief of Staff Galant and hunted down Olmert, so Egyptian media sold the riots to Western news consumers as pro-democracy protests. Reporters willfully ignored bloodbath riots, widespread looting, and arson in Egyptian towns in favor of the relatively orderly Tahrir Square protests. Rather small demonstrations were amplified on TV screens so they looked like a mass uprising. Nearly no mention was made of the total calm in most of Cairo. Mubarak’s objectively high approval ratings were ignored, and he was portrayed as an Eastern despot though he is the only Western-style ruler in the region. Riots by thugs and Islamists were sanitized into a velvet revolution. The hypothesis of revolution-by-media can be tested in Syria: since foreign media are scarcely represented there, rioters would fail to displace Assad.

The American propensity for nominal democratization—which in this case will certainly bring Islamists to power—is surprising. It is not an isolated error, but the one repeated recently in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, and now in Egypt. Democracy has become an idol rather than the means to ensure liberalism. Sacrificed to democracy are staunchly pro-American rulers in Iraq and Lebanon, with others in Afghanistan and Egypt soon to follow. America’s betrayal of its allies is outright senseless, with no imaginable benefits. The White House does not even have a goal, but merely leans toward democratization. It has not approved any successor to Mubarak, or the composition of the next government. At first, it looked like the United States would approve Omar Suleiman as a successor to Mubarak, but that is not the case. Mindful of his intelligence requests to Israel, he worked overtime to quash the riots. The whole issue revolves around a personal quarrel between Obama and Mubarak, who greatly despises the hapless yuppie. And so the White House incited the Egyptian opposition with no clear plan for the day after. While Egypt was falling down, Clinton wasted no time lecturing Middle-eastern rulers about democratizing their own countries. Which left America with still fewer allies.

The US did not work out a common line on Egypt with Israel, its only reliable partner in the Middle East. As a result, Netanyahu wavered between secretly supporting Mubarak (to the extent of an Israeli Navy presence in the Suez) and calling publicly for a democratic Egypt. The Israeli leader who failed to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Hamas’ digging of hundreds of miles of tunnels in Gaza, and the Hezbollah putsch in Lebanon is not a man to prop up Mubarak against the wishes of his own and Mubarak’s American masters. Netanyahu made a mistake by allowing Egyptian troops into Sinai to fight Hamas, the first such violation of the peace treaty. Instead, he should have sent IDF to take control of the Rafah area.

In his usual manner of talking rather than acting, Netanyahu jumped at the opportunity to show the world that Israel is not the root cause of all the Middle East’s evil. That did not help: just as the riots kept raging throughout Egypt, the Quartet urged Israel to continue the peace process no matter what. On the other hand, the fact that Arab countries are in turmoil does not negate the need for real peace with them.

America’s treatment of Mubarak is a warning sign for Israel. America’s greatest lever was its aid to Egypt. At $1.2 to $2 billion, the amount of aid is negligible compared to Egyptian GDP, but it is important to special interests in Egypt who have become used to squandering it over the last few decades. They became the White House’s agents of influence and lobbied for Mubarak’s removal. The same may happen in Israel, which accepts insignificant American aid at the cost of selling her policy-makers to puppeteers in Washington.

We witness a battle of titans. A lone realist, Mubarak relies on his own cash, disbursing money by tens of millions to stay in power. There is no doubt that he strives for the benefit of his country. At the age of 82, Mubarak does not want a Harvard-educated Kenyan to ruin the country he has guided with an iron hand and a clear mind for thirty years. And Obama, president of the world’s empire, employs rightist means for leftist ends. The point of no return has passed: if Mubarak survives, he will never forgive Obama for his betrayal. And neither Mubarak nor Suleiman will forgive Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood for the terrorist attacks they staged in Egypt during its time of weakness.

By supporting Mubarak and Suleiman today, Israel can get the best ally money can buy. Or we can resign ourselves to ‘pro-democratic elements,’ and for the first time in the past four thousand years we can battle both Egypt and Iran simultaneously.