I’m shocked that they’re shocked. What else is he supposed to do?

Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness…

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”…

“The question is, do we think Obama is reliable or not,” said an Israeli official, who declined to be named.

“Right now it doesn’t look so. That is a question resonating across the region not just in Israel.”

Explain to me what the United States gains by sticking with Mubarak at this point, or what it would even mean to “stick with him” now. Realistically, the only way he holds onto power is by convincing the army to renege on its promise not to use force and to turn Tahrir Square into Tiananmen. If that happened, we’d lose any shred of goodwill we still have in the region and we’d end up dumping him anyway. Short of that, he’s finished; the best he can hope for, realistically, is to stay on a bit longer as the nominal leader of a transitional government in advance of elections. The outcome of those elections may be rotten, but it is what it is. Even if the U.S. declared unequivocal moral support for Mubarak in order to reassure the Saudis and Jordanians, watching him topple anyway would only remind them of how little leverage we have. Which is to say, there are no good outcomes here that involve Mubarak; in all likelihood, there are no good outcomes period. (There are certainly no good outcomes for Israel.) In fact, if Mubarak did somehow hold on, I wonder if his political near-death experience wouldn’t frighten him into turning belligerent towards Israel in order to shore up support among the public. The only option for the U.S. is to side with the opposition, however tentatively, and do what we can to get guarantees from them that they’ll keep a cold peace with Israel and keep the Suez Canal open. It is what it is, which is why even McConnell and Boehner are sympathetic to Obama’s handling of this thus far.

A point to ponder as you watch Netanyahu address the crisis: Some U.S. hawks like Reuel Marc Gerecht think that Islamist democracy may be an inevitable stage in the evolution of some Arab countries from dictatorship to something more modern and liberal. Iranians have already learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t. Egypt hasn’t yet, and it may be that the only way to find out is to experience it firsthand. That’s a cold comfort for what might be coming, just as it’s a cold comfort that even a secular Egyptian government might be inclined towards hostility against Israel. But it is what it is.

Update: He’s a dead man walking no matter what we do. Backing him wholeheartedly would accomplish nothing.

Two of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s closest allies, his new vice president, Omar Suleiman, and his defense minister, Hussein Tantawi, are quietly working on a plan under which Mubarak would step down from power, according to a U.S. scholar who has been staying in regular touch with the Egyptian political and military leadership.

“They want to be sure that Mubarak is going to cooperate,” said Stephen P. Cohen, president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development and a longtime confidant of Egyptian and Israeli leaders.

The two-part plan, according to Cohen, would involve the immediate removal of 100 members of the Egyptian Parliament whose election this past fall was seen as illegitimate. They would be replaced by 100 candidates who were barred from running in the election or who were defeated because of government meddling in the election process.

A second possible step would be the organization of new parliamentary and presidential elections. The plan, according to Cohen, “requires [Mubarak] to give up his office.” Asked whether Mubarak would do that, Cohen answered, “He is getting ready to do so.”

It sounds like the idea is to keep Omar Suleiman as president and give the opposition some sort of presence in parliament without it being decisive. Are protesters going to settle for that? They’re holding a million-man march tomorrow in order to see … Mubarak’s intelligence chief installed as new strongman?

Update: Tapper reports that Obama is sending Frank Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt under Reagan and Bush 41, to Cairo in order to discuss “transition.” Quote: “Senior officials would not discuss whether Wisner was charged with showing Mubarak the door.”