June 15, 2011

From Arab Spring to Persian Summer?

Democracy breaks out across the Arab lands, and Palestinians take it out on Israel. Iran supports democracy for its enemies, dictatorship for its allies. Israelis hunker down.

Palestinians seem to be in an earlier stage of statism than their fellow Arabs in Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, or even Syria. Their resentment and their yearning for freedom can still be channeled against Israel at least as much as against their own leaders. As Syrians finally turn against the Assad regime, resident Palestinians have advanced the ruler's agenda by defying the fortified Israeli border. In the West Bank and Gaza, hard-core demonstrations against Israel have similarly spared Fatah and Hamas the worst kind of insurrection being witnessed around the Middle East. Palestinians certainly have grievances against Israel, but so did the Syrians and Egyptians who have risked their lives to overthrow their own leaders. For now, their adaptation of the Arab Spring is serving to bolster their established elites. 

Iran continues to support Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as Assad in Syria -- while hailing the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who was no friend of the Islamic Revolution. Also, the Islamic Republic continues to crack down on the innate dissent within Iranian society, lest the Arab Spring turn to Persian Summer.

Israel, of course, has little influence over the sweeping changes across its neighborhood. While championing democracy as a goal for the region, Israelis are fearful of radical movements that may use the resulting vacuum to take power in on or more of these nations. They prefer the devil they know... The fact that the Israeli government -- and consequently the Israeli public -- seems increasingly disinterested in negotiating with Palestinians certainly does little to keep the pragmatic Palestinians from being overruled at home. This is one bet Iran may be winning.

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