Celebrations across Mideast after ouster
BEIRUT — Revelers swept joyously into the streets across the Middle East yesterday after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as Egypt’s president. From Beirut to Gaza, tens of thousands handed out candy, set off fireworks, and unleashed celebratory gunfire, and the governments of Jordan, Iraq, and Sudan sent their blessings.
Even in Israel, which had watched Egypt’s 18-day uprising against Mubarak with some trepidation, a former Cabinet minister said Mubarak did the right thing. “The street won. There was nothing that could be done. It’s good that he did what he did,’’ Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister who knew Mubarak well and spoke to him just a day earlier, told Israel TV’s Channel 10.
The boisterous street celebrations erupted within moments of the dramatic announcement by Vice President Omar Suleiman of Egypt that Mubarak had stepped down. The success of Egypt’s protesters in ousting a longtime ruler came less than a month after a prodemocracy movement in Tunisia pushed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile in Saudi Arabia.
The breakneck speed of developments, after decades of authoritarian rule across the Arab world, left some of those celebrating yesterday wondering where regime change might come next.
“We are very happy today that we were able to overcome the dictator Hosni Mubarak. Tomorrow will be the turn of the dictators in the entire Arab world,’’ said Issam Allawi, an Egyptian celebrating with dozens outside the Egyptian Embassy in Beirut.
Two of Egypt’s neighbors — Israel and the Palestinians — followed the historic moment closely. Israel’s greatest concern in the past two weeks has been that its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt might not survive under a new government, particularly if Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — the largest and most organized opposition group — gains influence. The Palestinian offshoot of the Brotherhood, the Islamic militant group Hamas, seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.