The upheaval in the Arab world, which began in Tunisia, spread into Egypt, Yemen and Libya and reached Syria in mid-March 2011, has dramatically shaken and transformed the Middle East. The sequence of events that came to be known as the “Arab Spring” caused powerful political turmoil and may have turned into “winter”. The massive demonstrations held in many Arab countries in the years 2010-2011 challenged the existing status-quo and the political and social systems in the region. These uprisings constituted a collective expression of social and economic resentment. The power and influence focal points, characterized by economic, political and intellectual strength, emerged in the primary cities and were accompanied by the demands of the masses for profound reforms whose results are difficult to anticipate.
The articles in this book seek to restore some order to the chaos and provide an intellectual ‘time-out’ in the torrent of events that continue to unfold and have repercussions. They attempt to provide answers to such questions as: what stands behind these uprisings? Can the “Arab Spring” be regarded as the equivalent of the “Spring of Nations”? Where is the Arab world generally and the Middle East in particular heading? An exhaustive analysis of the events attempts to identify and point out the trends in the Arab world as well as the challenges facing it.
The authors, mainly political scientists serving as research fellows at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, hail from diversified fields of study and attempt to describe the processes from different angles, including: democracy processes; changes in the balance of power; the USA; the Palestinians – their position in the context of the process and how they refer to the events; terrorism and its challenges; economic implications; the linkage to and effect on Israel, its internal politics and foreign policy; and even the effect of the upheavals on Israel’s national security.
The relative percentage of orientalists and historians within the diversified range of authors is relatively low. Consequently, this collection lacks a historic analysis of past processes that had led to the upheaval and the more recent sequence of events, which – at least in some of its focal points – has stabilized in the meantime. An analysis of the past and an analysis of the present based on it could possibly provide the tools that would have enabled us to better evaluate where, eventually, this process is heading.
The regional instability had emerged owing to the disintegration of the old centralistic regimes and has been appointed, as stated, by internal processes – democratic, Islamic and subversive. One of the results was the emergence of areas devoid of central government. The Middle East is being transformed into a system of states, organizations and individuals associated with one another both directly and indirectly. The system currently emerging is difficult to control and govern, and predicting its future is even more difficult. The authors of the articles, one and all, are aware of the fact that the Arab world is still undergoing, as these things are being written, a process of changes that lead to uncertainty. The various authors offer a profound, sober academic view of processes taking place here and now; the result is another collection of articles that helps us study and better understand the domain in which we live.
Along with other research institutes, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at the Bar-Ilan University addresses national security issues in the Middle East in the general context of a conservative, Zionist agenda. The BESA center publishes policy-guiding studies, position papers, strategic reviews, article collections and books. The center holds research seminars, study days, briefings for various elements and international conferences.
The editor of this book, Efraim Inbar, is a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and the Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He specializes in national security issues in the Middle East.
Arab Spring? Israel, the World and the Regional Changes, Edited by Efraim Inbar. Yediot Aharonot, Hemed Books, Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies 2013, 245 pages.