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Eli Lake

Israel's Prophet of Freedom Gives In to Middle East Reality

Like George W. Bush, Natan Sharansky once favored nation-building. Now he'll settle for survival.
Inspiration of the "freedom agenda."

Inspiration of the "freedom agenda."

Photographer: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

An irony about Natan Sharansky, the legendary Soviet refusenik turned Israeli politician, is that his treatise on "free" and "fear" societies had more influence on American conservatives than those in his adopted homeland. President George W. Bush has said the 2004 book Sharansky co-authored, "The Case for Democracy," inspired his second inaugural address. Yet in Israel, the former dissident's ideas are politely ignored.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proves this point. A book about his foreign policy could be called "The Case for Dictatorship." He has expanded Israel's quiet security partnership with the Saudi royal family and is warming ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom he has met with four times in the last year. These days Netanyahu is said to talk more frequently with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi -- the dictator who unseated an Islamist who won Egypt's first free election-- than he does with President Barack Obama.