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Israeli interpretation on the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring

An Egyptian anti-government demonstrator holds his national flag bearing the writing in Arabic "A salute to the makers of the Egyptian revolution and its martyrs" as they gather in Alexandria on February 6, 2011 on the 13th day of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
An Egyptian anti-government demonstrator holds his national flag bearing the writing in Arabic "A salute to the makers of the Egyptian revolution and its martyrs" as they gather in Alexandria on 6 February 2011 on the 13th day of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak [AFP via Getty Images]

The Israeli political, security and research decision-making circles have recently shown great interest in the tenth anniversary of the outbreak of the Arab revolutions, warning against the waves of the revolution being revived. This is despite the revolutions seemingly having ended by their ten-year anniversaries.

While recent Israeli reports marking the passage of a decade since the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions unanimously considered them a failure, they appear to have rushed this judgement. Similar historic movements that have matured after many years have resulted in success.

In recent weeks, Israeli media has been preoccupied with what it described as Arab Spring protests, marking the tenth anniversary of their launch against dictatorial regimes. They claim that these revolutions have turned into an "Islamist winter" for Islamists, who took advantage of the chaos and filled the voids left by the overthrown Arab rulers.

At the time, Israeli data suggested that the Islamist protesters were more organised than the liberals, and therefore succeeded in gaining power in the post-revolution elections. The Israeli monitoring of the results of the Arab revolutions after these years revealed that the Islamists benefited from them in Egypt, where the late Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, reached the presidency before the coup was staged against him, and in Tunisia, where the Ennahda movement took power. Meanwhile, other countries witnessed overwhelming chaos and fierce civil wars such as Syria, Yemen and Libya.

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Israel adopted a narrative that the Arab Spring resulted from the policy of former US President Barack Obama. However, Washington was surprised by it, as well as international intelligence agencies, including Israel's. Moreover, the US influence over internal Arab developments seemed modest, and it was satisfied with moral support towards democratisation, but did not work to promote it by force.

This confirms that the Arab Spring did not happen because of Obama's policies, but because of the emergence of social networks that allowed the residents of Arab countries to understand the limits of their civil liberties. These social networks acted as tools for organisation that were not available prior. Today, ten years later, there are quite a few indications that the Arab Spring will yield positive results in the end, despite concerns over the length of the road that will lead to these outcomes.

The Israeli system and its circles noticed many Arab developments after these ten years. Through them, it is possible to judge the change brought about by the Arab Spring to identify its positive meanings. Many favourable historic changes came after difficult and violent periods, and the transition from one state of balance to another often requires a period of disorder and instability.

Simultaneously, the Arab revolutions pushed a number of Arab rulers to realise that they are standing on the same side as Israel, against Islamist groups and Iran, which may force the Arab regimes and Israel to adopt a new vision for the Middle East. However, this will deprive Israel of its constant claim of being the only democracy in the Middle East.

The commemoration of the first decade of the Arab revolutions coinciding with the normalisation agreement gave Israel a feeling that it would transform this region to boast opportunity, and not only threats. This is by draining the sense of danger from neighbouring countries, and ultimately taking advantage of the opportunities available, favouring a settlement with the Palestinians.

After the passing of a decade since the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions, the Israeli intelligence community believes that regional instability, along with the strength of social networking sites and the development of social solidarity, may cause the revolutions to erupt once again, and this time stronger.

The Arab protests erupted, starting in Tunisia, passing through Egypt, then Yemen, Syria and Libya, surprising Israeli intelligence, which did not recognise the power of social networks. Even Washington turned its back on Egyptian President Mubarak, and Obama tightened the rope around his neck to force him to step down.

The Israeli intelligence community has the necessary security methods to analyse the past decade in the Middle East, but most of its experts agree that the Arab Spring has not stopped, despite its changing shape. It may unexpectedly erupt again, and it will likely be more powerful in the future, as long as the Arab masses are unhappy with their conditions.

In light of the emerging reality in the region, the Israeli security and military establishment is giving itself a wide margin for intelligence assessment. In historical operations of this kind, other waves continue, and it is correct to note that these higher waves are followed by regional turmoil. Since the situation in the Middle East is more complex, it will take longer, despite the generalisations regarding the Arab Spring not being precise.

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From the Israeli point of view, Arab developments provided fuel for the following violent protests, and as long as the Arabs do not get what they want from the ruling authorities, the Arab Spring may repeat itself, as was the case in Tahrir Square.

Israel's experience with the Arab Spring confirms that the reality in the Middle East is difficult to predict, despite the fact that this dangerous period helped Israeli intelligence analyse the dynamics of the region. In the past, there were claims that dictatorship is better than mayhem, but today no one can promote this notion easily, and here begins the conflict.

After a decade, Israel does not prefer the fall of Arab regimes or the outbreak of civil wars, but instead, it seeks the continuation of stable governments, even if they are dictatorships. For Israel, there is a need for one clear address to deliver messages and to negotiate, because the Middle East is still the global hub for Jihad in Syria, Sinai and Iraq, and the phenomena that erupted and disappeared at this stage, posed a threat to the Israeli home front.

In Israel's opinion, the Arab Spring not only shed light on the desire of the Arab citizen to obtain their basic rights and a decent living condition, but also emphasised the growth of the non-governmental player, fighting without military weapons and the use of advanced technologies. This is what really worries Israel in the coming years.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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