David Ignatius: Israel’s Arab Spring Problem
Whatever else that might be said about the Arab revolutions, it’s obvious that they pose a problem for Israel. But how bad, and what should the Israeli government do to hedge its risks? I heard some interesting — but not very encouraging — ideas on this subject from top government officials last week.
To sum up: Most officials think that relations with the Arabs are gradually going to get worse, perhaps for decades, before democracy really takes root and the Arab public, perhaps, will be ready to accept the Jewish state. The challenge for Israel is how to avoid inflaming Arab public opinion, a newly important factor, while protecting the country.
The trouble ahead is symbolized by the election of Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, as president of Egypt. His inauguration prompted a wary message of congratulation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing hope that Israeli-Egyptian relations will be cooperative and based on mutual interest. The statement masked deep Israeli anxieties.
Netanyahu fears an erosion of the relationship with Egypt over time and wants to slow that process, if possible, while preparing for potential trouble. Netanyahu is said to view these precautions as the equivalent of putting up shutters before a storm.