The Right-Wing Israeli Case That the Arab Spring Is Good for Israel

The popular uprisings across the Middle East have found surprising boosters: some right-wing opponents of the two-state solution.

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Moroccans march in support of Palestine this April. (Reuters).

TEL AVIV, Israel -- The conventional wisdom, both here in Israel and abroad, is that the popular movements sweeping across the Arab world are bad news for Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently described the Arab Spring as an "Islamic, anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli, and anti-democratic wave," saying that "Israel is facing a period of instability and uncertainty in the region. This is certainly not the time to listen to those who say follow your heart."

The contention that the Arab Spring is bad for Israel hinges on the assessment that the old regimes in the region are being replaced by more populist, anti-Israel forces, exacerbated by the rise of Islamist groups. (Most Israelis I met prefer the term "Islamist Winter" to describe what is happening around them.) Israelis are convinced that Egypt will abrogate its treaty with them, and that even regimes that are not overthrown will have to be more sensitive to popular will and thus be pushed to adopt more hostile postures toward Israel. As Graham Fuller, former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, put it succinctly : "The biggest single loser [of the Arab Spring], hands down, is Israel."

As it relates to the Palestinians, many Israelis are arguing, this period of instability and unpredictability is not the time to make concessions. As American Jewish Community Executive Director David Harris recently wrote, "Since the upheaval began in Tunisia, Israel's immediate security environment has become more, not less, challenging. The chances for peace, already remote, seem still more distant."

But during my current trip in Israel, I've been finding a positive take on the Arab Spring coming from an unexpected place: right-wing Israelis, particularly opponents of the two-state solution. From former security officials to West Bank settlers, I heard a surprisingly large number of Israelis arguing that the Arab Spring will actually solve their problems with the Palestinians.

The first step of their argument is that the Muslim Brotherhood is taking over Egypt, so soon enough they will be will be willing to annex Gaza (run by the Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas). The group is certainly not hampered by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's fear that annexing Gaza would strengthen his domestic Islamist opponents. So Israel will no longer have to worry about that strip of land from which it unilaterally withdrew in 2005, but for which the international community still holds Israel responsible.

The next phase of the argument is that Jordan, though seemingly quiet, is actually brewing with discontent among its Palestinian population (which some estimates put at over 50 percent of the country), and a Palestinian overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy is inevitable, clearing the way for a Palestinian state in Jordan or the Jordanian annexation of the Palestinian cities in the West Bank. The "Jordan is Palestine" argument is a familiar trope on the Israeli right that reappears every few years, but the Arab Spring has, surprisingly, breathed new life into it.

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Zvika Krieger is a former editor and writer at The New Republic and a former correspondent for Newsweek based in Egypt and Lebanon, covering most of the Arab world. More

Krieger has received fellowships to study topics including the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the Kifaya reform movement in Egypt, public health in Bombay slums, religious identity in Kashmir, historical memory in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, and the role of religion in Lebanese politics. He has also reported from such places as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Libya, North Ireland, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Korea. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Slate, New York, Arab Reform Bulletin, New Stateman, Chronicle of Higher Education, Daily Star (Lebanon), Cairo Magazine, Jerusalem Post, Christian Science Monitor, and various other publications, and he has appeared as a Middle East analyst on NBC News, CNN, Fox News, and Air America. His writings have earned him awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. He is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. He has a bachelor's degree in Middle East Studies from Yale University and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo.

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