Few states in the world not taking direct part in the “Arab Spring” themselves have a higher stake in its causes, convulsions, and consequences than the State of Israel.
This is partly a function of geography. Though none of the twenty-two members of the Arab League have completely eschewed the tumult that has swept across much of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since December 2010, those impacted most forcefully so far have generally been in Israel’s more immediate, oil-poor, neighborhood. A metaphorical stone’s throw from Jerusalem, Syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war, Lebanon simmers, Iraq titters, Jordan wobbles, and Egypt is in the throngs of a mighty struggle between the old masters of the Arab world – statist, socialist, secular, and sclerotic – and new species of Islamist governing elites.
That struggle threatens to undermine the very pillars of existing strategic arrangements upon which Israel has built the lion share of its national security and prosperity over the past several decades – most crucially the American supported peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan – and to empower the Iran-led “axis of resistance” inimical to the core Israeli interests in security and stability its vicinity.
Jerusalem is understandably more sensitive than most to the trans-border ripple effects, new alliances, and host of unintended consequences flowing out of the Arab revolts. Sophisticated weapons once horded by Qaddafi in Tripoli silos are proliferating through Sinai, and resurfacing in the hands of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza. Chaos in Syria has already begun to spill over into Lebanon, Jordan, and northern Iraq. The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is recalibrating power dynamics across the Sunni world, between Sunnis and Shi’i, and limiting Israel’s freedom of operation against the Palestinian branch of the brotherhood – Hamas.