An Arab Spring?

Edited by Efraim Inbar

In this new 2013 book, eight experts from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and other Israeli institutes evaluate the Arab earthquakes rocking the Middle East. They consider their implications of the regional volatility for Israel and its chances to live peacefully in the region, as well as the implications for regional and global security.

Published in February 2013 in Hebrew as Arab Spring? Israel, the World and the Changing Region by Yediot Ahronot books. Available for purchase at all Israeli bookstores, and through the BESA Center.

Expected publication in March 2013 in English as The Arab Spring, Democracy and Security: Domestic and Regional Ramifications by Routledge (part of the BESA Studies in International Security series).

An Arab Spring - Cover

Chapter summaries:


Chapter 1 – Democratization Process in the Middle East

Prof. Gabriel Ben-Dor

The “Arab Spring” popular uprisings appeared in a rapid sequence, evidently a form of a socio-political epidemic, one situation infecting other societies in the region. This phenomenon proved that in terms of political culture the Arab world is very much a reality. The reasons for the uprisings differed from one country to the next, but some social, political and economic fundamentals were shared by all. The outcome of the various uprisings also depended on the concrete features of the given society, in each case facing major difficulties and challenges on the road to possible stable democracy in the near future.


Chapter 2 – The Emerging Middle East Balance of Power

Prof. Hillel Frisch

Despite the ouster of four Arab rulers, the Muslim cold war between the American-Saudi-Gulf state alliance and the Iranian-Hizballah axis will continue to prevail. Meanwhile, the decreasing stature of many of  Arab states – mainly Egypt, as it attempts the painful transition from authoritarianism to more representative government – will prove a boon to Turkey and Iran. These two states, whose imperial forebears ruled over the Arabs until recently, might do so again. Ironically, only an alliance of the Arab regimes with Israel, which is too small to harbor imperialist designs but regionally powerful, might avert the Arab exit from history.


Chapter 3 – The United States and the “Arab Spring”

Prof. Eytan Gilboa

This study presents a critical analysis of American policies towards uprisings in several major Arab states including Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria. It finds a considerable gap between American rhetoric, which followed a similar pattern, and actions, which varied considerably, even in similar circumstances. Actions included looking the other way, heavy diplomatic and political pressure, and military intervention. The inconsistency damaged US standing in the Middle East and may have resulted from historical, contemporary, domestic and regional sources. The study reveals deficiencies in the American approach to democracy and the transition from autocracy to democracy in the region.


Chapter 4 – The Arab Spring and Palestinian Apathy

Dr. Alexander Bligh

While many countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been struggling with old regimes, some engaging in bloody civil wars, the Palestinian population has not indicated any opposition to its current leaders – the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This is to a large extent the result of a “wait-and-see” attitude adopted by PA and Hamas leaders alike. However, the status quo is not likely to remain unchanged for long. Hamas already has the means to gain power on its own, a decision that will be coordinated with Egypt and Iran.


Chapter 5 – The Challenge of Terrorism

Dr. Boaz Ganor

The tectonic changes occurring in the Arab world have created a prime security challenge for Israel and other countries. Given the political-security ramifications for Israel, future internal struggles within the new regimes could aggravate the terrorist threat to Israel in the short (the destabilization of Arab governments may help facilitate cross-border terrorist attacks against Israel), medium (these new governments may find themselves led by terrorist organizations down a one-way path to military conflict with Israel), and long terms (the establishment of new Islamist regimes across the Arab world may lead to the emergence of new jihadist terrorist organizations).


Chapter 6 – The Economic Implications of the Arab Upheavals

Dr. Gil Feiler

This chapter comparatively explores the economic causes and effects of the “Arab Spring” and identifies the similarities between the affected nations. It uncovers commonalities such as the significance of capital flight and the importance of tourism, and explains divergences in outcomes. Economic instability is certain to plague these countries for some time, and many problems, such as youth unemployment, widespread corruption and income disparity are sure to continue despite leadership changes. There is also discussion of the nexus between economics and religion and the link between economics and terrorism, as well as prognoses and policy recommendations for the future.


Chapter 7 – The “Arab Spring” and Israel: The Domestic Politics–Foreign Policy Linkage

Prof. Shmuel Sandler

In 2011 the Likud government faced a regional earthquake, the “Arab Spring.” How did these events influence Israeli domestic politics and foreign policy? This study adopts theoretical linkage politics to analyze the interface between Israeli domestic and international politics in 2011 as a result of the popular uprisings. Subsequently, it examines the impact of the “Arab Spring” on the Israeli public opinion. It concludes with an evaluation of the Netanyahu government’s success at the end of 2011 in sailing safely through the unstable waters of the Middle East, despite unfavorable conditions at home and abroad.


Chapter 8 – The Strategic Implications for Israel

Prof. Efraim Inbar

This chapter assesses the major implications of the “Arab Spring” for Israel’s national security: the weakening of Arab states, changes in the regional balance of power and America’s apparent retreat from the region. It then focuses on new concerns that threaten Israel’s national security, among them heightened risks of rapid change and strategic surprises, increased terrorist activity, reduced deterrence, growing regional isolation and the Iranian nuclear threat. It also suggests how Israel can respond, including expanding its standing army, increasing investment in research and development, establishing defensible borders and new regional allies, and maintaining its special relationship with the US.

Prof. Efraim Inbar

Prof. Efraim Inbar

(Ph.D. University of Chicago) Director of the BESA Center. A veteran authority on the Arab-Israeli conflict and strategic developments in the Mideast.