Israel Must Not Ignore the Arab Spring

This ship of fools continues to sail as if it can remain entirely untouched by the earthquakes and shock waves in the Arab world.

Three civil wars are going on in the Middle East - in Libya, Syria and Yemen. The Iraqi government is on the brink of dissolution, while Egypt is wavering between a military and a civilian regime and has no idea what sort of regime the popular uprising will create. Lebanon has no government, the Iranian regime is leading an unusual political struggle, and Turkey is electing a new parliament today, one that could generate a constitutional revolution.

And in Israel - nothing. A few dozen protesters trying to cross the border with Syria are "the existential threat." What happens in September, not what has happened in the Middle East since January, is being described as a "tsunami." The ship of fools continues to sail as if it were a floating island for which an Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system is sufficient, something that can remain entirely untouched by the earthquakes and shock waves in the region.

But the possible scenarios are worrisome. In Egypt, for example, the realistic concern is not necessarily that the Muslim Brotherhood will take control of the government, or that a new war will break out on our southern front. Rather, it's over the Egyptian government's policies after the elections there in September. The opening of the Rafah crossing, the unofficial negotiations with Iran over renewing diplomatic relations, protests in front of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, the Egyptian journalist injured in Tahrir Square after she was suspected of being an "Israeli of German extraction," the demand to revisit the Camp David Accords, at least its economic clauses - all these are signs of the new challenges Egypt is presenting to Israel.

In Syria there are two possible scenarios. If President Bashar Assad survives the wave of armed protests, this will come in exchange for deep political reforms that will uproot his absolute control over the country, or after a bloodbath that will rock Syria and remove its regional influence, at least for the near future. If Assad's regime falls, Syria might find itself mired in a long period of political instability and a violent battle of ethnic cleansing against the Alawite minority. Vying for influence in Syria will be Iran, Turkey, the United States, Russia and the European Union.

Without the "Assad effect," which has for years stopped outbreaks of violence, Lebanon could also descend into turmoil. Hezbollah, having lost its logistic and political crutch, could try by force of arms to build Lebanon to its own liking.

Even far-off Yemen is a cause for concern, particularly because of its location on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, through which maritime traffic reaches the ports of Saudi Arabia, Eilat and Aqaba. Al-Qaida has a relatively large base in southern Yemen, and Iran has already reported that its submarines have been to the Red Sea to gather military intelligence.

So far, Jordan has escaped the fate of Yemen and Syria, but the dissatisfaction index with the regime is skyrocketing. Jordan is a country without an insurance policy in case of a tsunami, and the implications vis-a-vis Israel need no explanation.

Still not impressed? The next question, therefore, is what U.S. policy will be. The United States, it may be assumed, will make every effort to strengthen its hold on the region following the regime changes. It has already pledged to give $2 billion to Egypt, and it won't refuse aid to Yemen's new government when it arises. The same will be true for the Libyan rebels after their victory. As for Syria, the United States will aspire, along with the European Union, to win the contest against Iran and Russia, and post-Assad Syria will enjoy a warm American shoulder.

But it's not just a question of economic aid. The next move could be an Arab alliance among the new regimes. It will not be a new Arab League, but an arena of coinciding interests in which "old" regimes like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait will interact with the new regimes. It will therefore be an alliance in which the United States aspires to be a dominant partner, and it has a good chance of being accepted as such.

And what of the Israeli "floating island"? About a year ago, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who was then commander of the forces in Afghanistan and now heads the CIA, warned that Israeli policy in the occupied territories was harming U.S. interests in the region. If Israel does not change its policy after the dust settles in the region and does not help the United States be the power in the region, it will be categorized as suspicious, if not an outright enemy. And what will Israel then sell to the Middle East and the United States?