#FCBBCA: Should Israel fear the Arab spring?


By Eva Dumontet

Should Israel fear the Arab spring?  When asked the same question, the majority of the audience agreed that Israel should be concerned about the changes that were taking place across the region.

Yitzhak Lior stressed the “physical and psychological vulnerability” of Israel, while Miri Weingarten argued that Israel would be safer surrounded by democratic states. Daphna Baram said it was important to distinguish between the interests of the Israeli government and the interests of Israeli people. Unlike the Israeli people, the government has no interest in dealing with democratic countries, she insisted.

Eldad Beck, who has recently spent time in Egypt, suggested the West have a “fantasised” idea of the Arab Spring and drew a comparison with the aspirations of the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

He argued that the countries caught up in the Arab Spring were utterly divided and only agreed on being fundamentally anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. Lior backe this up by evoking a clause in a newly written constitution stating that no peace process was possible with Israel.

Miri Weingarten said it was necessary for Israel to reach out to the Middle East.

Daphna Baram pointed out that Arabs tend to admire the independent Israeli media and a judicial system able to condemn corrupt politicians. She said she hoped Israelis would be inspired by the democratic momentum in the Middle East.

Answering a comment from a member of the audience Beck said it was time to stop the hypocrisy concerning Israel’s hostility toward democracies, as all Western countries were also “hypocritical” – France showed at first very little support for the Tunisian revolution, he said.

Daphna Baram said it was unrealistic for Western governments – and Israel – to hope that they will be able to maintain submissive and convenient dictators in power.

Miri Weingarten said that whether we liked it or not, the Arab Spring was there and the challenge for Israel was to decide how they would deal with it.

An audience member asked if eventually the fear of the Arab Spring was not simply the fear of the unknown –  Yitzhak Lior agreed that it was difficult to foresee the unknown.

Miri Weingarten – who believes the Palestinians have been deeply inspired by the Arab Spring – concluded that the only way for Israel to pacify its relations with the Arab Spring countries was to improve its relation toward Palestinians.

As always when tackling the issue of Israel the debate was heated, but the hopeful words of Miri Weingarten resonated among the audience – and the energy and desire to keep on debating and arguing coming from all sides of the debate was encouraging.