This article was written for the European site, Crethi Plethi
The “Arab Spring” is the name given to the tumultuous political events of 2011. In three countries—Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia—the regimes that had been in power for between 40 and 60 years were overthrown. In Syria and Yemen the governments were seriously challenged and internal conflicts continue with the outcome not yet clear. And in Bahrain, a major challenge to the monarchy was put down by force.
What is the meaning of these events for the future of these countries and also to their relationship to Israel and that country’s security? This article addresses the shorter- and longer-term strategic and geopolitical implications of the “Arab Spring.”
In the three countries where power has changed hands—Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia—Islamists have emerged as powerful political forces. In Egypt, where elections are not yet completed, the Muslim Brotherhood received just under 40 percent of the vote and even more radical Salafists obtained about 20 percent. This means that Islamists will be the leading political parties in forming the parliament and in writing the country’s constitution.
What other forces exist? Only two: the army and the future president. The armed forces do not want political power but they do want to ensure their economic enterprises and wealth. The military junta, which still governs the country, is also concerned about preventing anarchy and maintaining U.S. aid. While asserting itself periodically to try to avoid extremism, the generals have backed down when challenged by the Brotherhood. Presumably, the junta will disband when a new president is elected, perhaps in the summer of 2013.
Who is a likely president? Only two potential candidates will have a chance. One of them is Amr Moussa, an Arab nationalist who has both a realistic and a demagogic side. The other is an Islamist backed by the Brotherhood, but that organization has not yet decided to push on that front and might make a deal with Moussa in order to have a strong ally against the military and also to avoid pushing itself too obviously forward.
Finally, a critical element is the failing Egyptian economy. The situation is so bad that the current prime minister cried at a press conference in discussing it. If a huge—and unsolvable--crisis emerges, the only way for a government to deal with it politically is to divert attention into an anti-Israel, anti-Western scapegoating.
This brings us to the effect of these events on Israel. At present, Egypt is by far the most important country in this regard. An Islamist Libya can provide money and weapons; an Islamist-led Tunisia can provide some moral support; Syria still hangs in the balance, but Egypt is the state that affects regional issues.
How does Egypt affect Israel? On a number of levels, all negative...
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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, to be published by Yale University Press in January 2012. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reports, and now on his new blog, Rubin Reports, on Pajamas Media
Technorati Tag: Israel and Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood and Arab Spring.