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Israel And The Arab Spring

August 9, 2014

Thanks to the Egyptian revolution the Sinai is once again becoming a central security issue between Egypt and Israel as militant activity in the region grows, according to Yeehudit Ronin. Photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg. Creative commons use.

Thanks to the Egyptian revolution the Sinai is once again becoming a central security issue between Egypt and Israel as militant activity in the region grows, according to Yeehudit Ronin. Photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg. Creative commons use.

A new issue of the journal Israel Affairs features a number of articles about the Arab Spring and its implications for the state of Israel. Two of these are about Egypt.

Yehudit  Ronin’s assessment of the “jihadist” threat in the Sinai is already out of date, since Israel’s recent occupation of Gaza and destruction of the tunnels into the Sinai through which arms, food and medicine flow.

His basic argument seems to be that thanks to the Egyptian revolution, and the decline in security in the Sinai, the peninsula is poised to once again become a central security issue between Egypt and Israel as militant activity in the region grows.

Here’s the abstract:

This article explores the identity, characteristics and activities of the jihadist community in the Sinai Peninsula, as well as the ideological affinity, flow of weapons and military cooperation between it and like-minded organizations in the Gaza Strip and beyond. It also analyses the ramifications of these organizations’ increased military power and political and ideological stature in Israel’s geostrategic environment.

I can’t comment further because my library has an 18-month embargo on access to this Taylor & Francis journal, and I can’t find a draft on the Internet.

The second article to discuss Egypt is “The ‘Arab Spring’: implications for US–Israeli relations” by Banu Eligür, who argues that the ‘Arab Spring’ interfered with a long-standing strategy, shared by the US and Israel, of supporting pro-Western autocracies in the Arab world.

In other words, by supporting pro-Democratic rebellions, especially against long-time allies like Hosni Mubarak, the US government ticked off the Israeli government because:

  1. they are more concerned about stability than democracy in the region; and anyway
  2. they think such movements will likely lead to the ascendance of Islamist regimes; and
  3. promoting democracy distracts from the really important project–suppressing Iran.

Even though the NSA sees Israel as a security threat as well as an ally, and US allies in NATO increasingly regard Israel itself as a threat to regional stability, Eligür regards as self-evident that the U.S. needs Israel. In fact, he claims, the US needs Israel all the more because the ‘Arab Spring’ itself has created a highly volatile strategic environment. He argues therefore that

the US needs to pursue a policy of supporting pro-democracy groups in the region while formulating a clear policy to deal with the threats from Iran and radical Islamist groups.

The special issue also includes articles on Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey:

  • Consolidated monarchies in the post-‘Arab Spring’ era: the case of Jordan by Nur Köprülü
  • Turkish foreign policy after the ‘Arab Spring’: from agenda-setter state to agenda-entrepreneur state by Burak Bilgehan Özpek and Yelda Demirağ
  • ‘Spring of Youth’ in Beirut: the effects of the Israeli military operation on Lebanon by Dan Naor

References:

Eligür, Banu. 2014. The ‘Arab Spring’: implications for US–Israeli relations. Israel Affairs 20(3): 281-301.

Ronin, Yehudit. 2014. The effects of the ‘Arab Spring’ on Israel’s geostrategic and security environment: the escalating jihadist terror in the Sinai Peninsula. Israel Affairs 20(3): 302-317.

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