The first trend is the further weakening of the Arab states. According to Professor Inbar, “The Arab states have been in social crisis for decades. The Arab states have failed to modernise in the 21st century. I’m not sure in which century we can put them but definitely they are far from the modernising phenomena, they were unfortunate in not having modernising leaders. And as a result of this social and political stagnation, we see an eruption of frustration, and this is not good. Basically we see demonstrators starting to fear the dictators, going into the streets demanding a more responsive government and risking their lives. So this is obviously laudable, it is inspiring, but we should realise that those demonstrators are not necessarily the agents for democratisation.”
“There are various political forces at work in the Arab world and we may see the dictators stay in power. Such as in Egypt, they got rid of Mubarak, Gaddafi is now running for his life but I’m not sure we will see a great Democracy rise up in Libya. Actually there are indicators that some of the members of the new regime are Al-Qaeda operatives. Obviously, in this part of the world, important political forces include radical Islam, in Syria, part of the opposition party is Sunni Islamists. The point is that it takes time to become a democracy and it will take some years before any of these countries will become democratic.”
This means that a democratic peace is not around Israel, so Israelis are not holding their breath waiting for democratic peace in the Middle East. Actually, Israel sees its rivals in the region getting weaker as they focus on domestic issues following civil war and Arab Spring uprisings.
A second trend is the rise of non-Arab actors in the region, namely Iran, Turkey and Israel. These countries did not fail to modernise, all have built large armies and Iran is building a nuclear weapon. Turkey has the second largest army in NATO, a stable economy, and recently have changed their foreign policy. They have distanced themselves from the West, they have sided, basically, with the radicals in the Middle East, together with the Iranians. Turkey voted against the USA at the UN Security Council on sanctions against Iran and was the only NATO country to have hosted Ahmadeinejad. Turkey is also the only NATO country which is conducting military exercises with China, including air force and commando training.
The most important rival to Turkey in the region is Egypt, the largest, most populous Arab state with an American trained military. According to Professor Inbar “We see the rise of Turkey and Iran at the expense of the Arabs.”
The third trend is the perceived decline in power of the United States and its ability to project power in the Middle East. Professor Inbar stated “The Obama Administration is viewed as extremely weak . Obama engaged its enemies, Iran and Syria. ‘Engagement’ is a nice word in English. In the Middle East you do not engage your enemies. Obama’s policies are seen as appeasement in the region and by both foes and friends he is seen as one who just ‘doesn’t get it’. This has seen a power withdrawal from the Middle East and negative for Israel, as an American ally.
Israel’s military might is a strong deterrence and exemplified with the perception that the USA will come to Israel’s aid if needed. The perception of deterrence is less so if Obama is seen as weak. This means less deterrence and in turn invites aggression.
So what does all this mean for Israel? Several things and includes a change of thinking. As Professor Inbar aptly put the challenge “the improbability of improbable scenarios is quite probable in the Middle East, we have to prepare for many scenarios.”
Iran is Israel’s greatest national security challenge. Iran has gone under the radar. Their strategy is to talk with the gullible west which buys time and this a major threat to Israel. For Israelis the question is whether to deal with the Iranian nuclear program. To deal with this program is obviously to lead to military action in order to eliminate the threat.
The Peace agreement with Egypt since 1979, referred to as the ‘Camp David Peace Treaty’ has been a pillar for Israel national security. Egypt is also experiencing the weakening of the state which results in an increased threat to Israel. The main strategic issue is the Egyptian’s stability. The Egyptian army is not secular and is the most religious army in the Middle East. The Sinai has become a haven for smugglers and is a tactical issue. The Israel southern border with Egypt is no longer a border of peace. Relations between Egypt and Israel have been particularly tense since August 18, when Israeli troops killed five Egyptian policemen as they chased militants along the border….
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