Israel and the Arab Spring
Israel understandably feels imperilled by the misnamed “Arab Spring – as the country's three-decade peace treaty with Egypt is under assault and its closest regional ally, Jordan, is withering from domestic protests.
The breakdown in political authority has flooded Israel's borders with a slew of dangerous weapons, from Libyan missiles in Gaza to Syrian Scuds in southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear program progresses unabated. Individually, each of these developments is cause for great concern; taken together, Israelis see the walls closing in.
For three decades, Mubarak's Egypt was the anchor of Israel's regional security. Since his ouster, the lawless Sinai has been the source of rocket attacks, Egypt has cancelled its gas contract with Israel, Israel's Cairo embassy staff barely survived an attempted mob lynching and the Muslim Brotherhood has issued disquieting verbal volleys against the peace treaty.
As these troubling developments suggest, the capacity of the Egyptian state has also fundamentally declined. The Egyptian economy is in dire straits: foreign reserves have dropped 60 percent, foreign direct investment has fallen by 90 percent, and this year's budget deficit is 10.4 percent of GDP – America's is 7.6 percent – and trending upwards.
Furthermore, Egypt's military regime and the Muslim Brotherhood are focused inward on re-establishing order and consolidating political control.
Any warlike move by an Islamist-led Egypt would trigger the elimination of the American military aid that currently funds nearly 40 percent of Egypt's defense budget. The Egyptian political body may indeed be more hostile to the Jewish State, but its capabilities for acting on that hostility have markedly declined.
Israel's concerns about a volatile Syria also belie the advantages reaped by a damaged Syria. Concerned about the potential transfer of Syrian Scuds or chemical weapons to Hezbollah, Israel is apprehensive of both a last ditch attempt by Assad to embroil it in war or by the possible ascent of another Islamist regime.
However, irrespective of Assad's ability to cling to power, post-uprising Syria will also be a shell of its former self. Like Egypt, its economy is in tatters, having been hit hard by Western sanctions on its oil industry, which accounts for 30 percent of its budget. Its' army has suffered large defections and losses at the hands of the rebels and its' patron, Iran, has invested massively in propping up its sole regional ally. Even Hezbollah, aware of its current tenuous position in the Lebanese powder keg, finds itself increasingly isolated, having sided with Assad. Israel's northern border has never been quieter.
Even in Gaza, where Hamas is ensconced, Israel's successful deployment of the game-changing Iron Dome missile defense system has revolutionized the security situation, resulting in no Israeli casualties due to rocket fire thus far in 2013.
Hamas abandoned its cosy headquarters in Damascus, fearful of aligning itself with the heretical Alawite sect against its Sunni Muslim brothers, and continues the political tug-of-war with Fatah in the West Bank.