A Post Arab Spring is when the process initiated has led to its intended outcome or when the process has not, with little or no possibility of leading to its intended outcome. Elections have been seen as a step towards ever lasting democracy with stable and sustainable institutions of government. Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have all had elections yet the elected leaders have not been able to implement functioning government. Syria has not reached this stage and Lebanon has failed in it. It would be a cardinal error for Israel to base national security planning on a temporary snapshot of political reality; a few days of Arab Spring uprisings and the overthrow of a dictator, to be replaced by another. Leadership of Arab countries is not the only factor that Israel considers when planning national security needs. Israel looks at its national security needs many decades in advance for the lead times in weapon R&D and procurement are that long. Such an evaluation depends not solely on the vacillating and changing leadership of its neighbours, but also on certain constants that are not going to be altered even with changing leadership.
The constants have been known since independence in 1948 and have not been changed by the Arab Spring. Israel remains a small state in population, natural resources, GDP and geographically. Israel is surrounded by states that are the opposite. Large tracts of land, rich in oil and a combined population of 300 million compared to Israel which has about 8 million. Neighboring states joined by bellicose Iran and numerous non-state violent actors have the potential to out number Israel on the battlefield. As a result the evaluation by Israel on potential enemy capability and intent is a constant. Israel continues to research, develop, manufacture and procure state of the art weapons while also promoting the means to control proliferation and enters into the diplomatic process of arms control and disarmament. Israel is thus assured of defense and deterrence.
The vacillating and changing leadership in the Middle East touted as the Arab Spring has not had a significant impact on this evaluation. Israel made no comment when the leadership of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen changed in a matter of a few weeks. Israel has not interfered in the domestic politics of war-torn Syria and dishevelled Lebanon. It is beyond the means and not in the intentions of Israel to influence the domestic affairs of other states or even to change the course of these conflicts to her favour. For Israel, the Arab Spring would have needed to have been sustainable for 20 or even 30 years before it could and would have influenced her weapons procurement and force structure decisions.
The Arab Spring has not been sustainable for even 20 or 30 months. The Arab Spring in Egypt has weakened Egyptian control of the Sinai. The Arab Spring in Libya has flooded the region with weapons. The Arab Spring has exacerbated the Sunni Shia divide. For Israel and consequent to these three episodes, the Sinai peninsula has been flooded with Iranian and Libyan weapons. Sinai has become an example of the Arab Spring wave of anti-regime uprisings and rebellions which has resulted in the loosening of central government control over large parts of the sovereign state. Control of Sinai is now a battle between the Egyptian Army and organizations such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic Jihad and their affiliates.
For Israel the Arab Spring was not overly significant in its national security planning, however the Post Arab Spring period of anarchy and chaos will be. Israel does not want the West Bank to become like the Sinai. Current Israeli control of the borders of the West Bank and the transportation routes inside it ensures that the weaponry that has flooded the Sinai has not flooded the West Bank. Israeli control of the borders of the West Bank and the transportation routes inside it has ensured that organizations such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic Jihad and their affiliates have not been able to enter the West Bank and create chaos and anarchy as they did in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. In the forthcoming negotiations with the Palestinians one important consideration will be security of the State of Israel. The Post Arab Spring environment emphasises that Israel will insist on control of the boundaries of the Palestinian State with Jordan and of transport routes within it, to ensure that it does not become like Sinai. Such control will not only benefit Israel but will also provide security for all the inhabitants of the West Bank.
Dr Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication