Israel starts from a basis of facing far more security challenges than any other modern state. Still, by Israeli standards the outlook is good.
It’ll take a while to list all of the factors so let’s get started while the inkwell is still full.
On the surface, the “Arab Spring” along with the surge of revolutionary Islamism certainly looks bad but let’s examine the shorter-term implications. By reentering a period of instability and continuing conflict within each country, the Arabic-speaking world is committing a self-induced setback. Internal battles will disrupt Arab armies and economies, reducing their ability to fight against Israel. Indeed, nothing could be more likely to handicap development than Islamist policies.
While one shouldn’t depend too much on expecting Arab regimes to be too busy dealing with domestic transformation to want to stage foreign adventures against Israel, this is far more true than in past decades. And even if they would like to attack Israel they are less able to do so effectively given their disrupted societies, weakened armies, uncertain alliances, and lack of a Western sponsor.
Every Arabic-speaking country is likely to be wracked by internal violence, conflict, disorder, and slow socio-economic progress for years, even decades, to come.
Westerners are going to be disillusioned as reform stalls; the oppression of women increases; and Islamism produces unattractive partners. True, the Western left romanticizes Islamism but the number of people persuaded that these regimes are more attractive than Israel will be less as what Marxism traditionally described as “clerical-fascist” movements flourish.
Moreover, for Turkey and Iran the last year has been a disaster for their regional power ambitions. With rising Arab Sunni Islamist movements in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria, Sunni Arabs see no need to turn to non-Arab Turks and non-Arab, non-Sunni Persians.
Turkey’s influence is limited to northern Iraq and, thanks largely to the Obama Administration’s backing, with the Syrian opposition. And if Syria became either Sunni Islamist or more moderate democratic, Damascus would quickly dispense with any need for Turkish patronage.
As for Iran, it has lost virtually all of its non-Shia Muslim assets, notably Hamas. Again, Sunni Arab Islamists are not going to follow Tehran’s lead while Sunni Arab countries don’t want to yield leadership of “their” Middle East to Tehran.
Therefore, the big Middle East conflict of this era will be Sunni-Shia, not Arab-Israeli. But a series of conflicts have broken out all along the Sunni-Shia borderland as the two blocs vie for control of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Bahrain.
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