What a difference a mere 3 years can make! In a part of the world where once time was considered to have ‘frozen,’ since 2010, the Middle East as we knew is changing forever.
Snapshot 3 years ago:
• Israel had only 1 border out of 5 that was troubled;
• Israel had a functioning military alliance with Turkey;
• Israel was totally dependent on outside sources to meet is oil and natural gas needs
• Israel had relations with two of the most friendly of US presidents to towards the Jewish state: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
These series of grass roots, youth-led, internet fueled revolutions in the Arab world have been called ‘The Arab Spring.’ This is a media-created term, signifying that the dark winter of long-term, autocratic, corrupt, nepotistic rulers have been thrown out and democracy, with elections, will take its place. Currently, the al Assad regime in Syria is going through its death throes as another ‘spring’ hits a long-entrenched dictatorship.
Most ominous is what I call the ‘Libyan precedent.’ When Libya’s ‘Arab Spring’ commenced, the United Nations, under the guise of humanitarian aid, did something unprecedented since its beginning in 1945. It authorised military force against a member nation for events happening within its own borders. This has never happened before. While the UN has sought to keep the peace between nations, it has never interferred in the affairs of a sovereign nation-state. If one nation gets interferrence, then no nations will be safe in the end. The Russians and Chinese were incensed by this action, since it could conceivably provide a pretext for global intervention in their respective restive areas like Chechnya and Xinjiang. NATO happily complied with the UN and did nightly bombing of Gaddafi’s compound, all the while with a straight face saying they did not want to kill him!
The Libyan revolution succeeded because of world intervention - plain and simple. There has been talk about intervening in the Syrian civil war; Israel is just down the road.
Since the start of the Arab Spring, here is the new scorecard:
Israel now has 4 out of 5 borders in trouble, the worse being Sinai. Jordan is stable -- for now -- but opposition to King Abdullah has become more vocal and visible.
• The military alliance with Turkey was terminated in 2011, in part over the dispute regarding the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in May 2010.
• Israel has had strained relations with the administration of Barack Obama. Though he would call himself a friend of Israel, and the military aid continues, his relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been troubled.
• Regarding energy resources, for the first time ever, Israel has located huge reserves of oil and natural gas off its Mediterranean coastline. The Jewish state could become an energy exporter, rather than importer, in the next few years.
Israel, on the other hand, sees Iran with a nuclear weapon as an existential threat. They are prepared to act alone and unilaterally in order to damage Iran’s nuclear capability. Iran has promised retaliation against Israel and the United States if it is attacked.
Power is shifting in the Middle East; what we need to remember is that, as the region shifts, so does the rest of the world.