Friday, 4 February 2011

Back to the Dark Ages?

The Egyptian uprising against Hosni Mubarak has been praised and championed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as ‘following in the footsteps of the 1979 Iranian Revolution’. If this is the case- Israel too, will be forced ‘back in time’; to when neighbouring hostility was the norm, and peace was far from achievable.

For Israel, developments in the Middle East from May 2010 must seem like a bad dream. Since then, the flotilla incident ended with harsh international criticism and a major falling-out with Turkey (affecting both security, peace negotiations and energy development in the Leviathan); Palestinian peace talks have broken down to the level where not only has Israel received public stick from the US, but the outcome of failed talks has been to strengthen Hamas’ hand and weaken more moderate elements; Hizballah has managed to be ‘all-but’ indicted by the UN tribunal into Hariri’s death, yet have still strengthened their own position and toppled the Lebanese government; and now Egypt looks set to shed its label as a bastion of stability in the region, adding fears that the Muslim Brotherhood could rise to ascendancy. To top it all off, these events are even threatening to resonate into Jordan in a serious way, and that is without mentioning other regional players (although small) such as Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen.

At a time like this it is worth checking the textbooks, and in particular, Classic Israeli Military Doctrine. For those not well versed in the history of Israeli Warfare, Israeli military Doctrine- the 1948/ 67/ 73 versions- was based around the following:

the concept of pre-emption; transfer of the battle to enemy territory; the importance of a quick military decision; flexibility within the Israeli Defence Force (IDF); the premium of quality over quantity; the use of superpower support.

All of these should be seen against a backdrop of exceptionally hostile neighbours whose stated aim was to destroy Israel, along with an Israeli geographical headache of a lack of strategic depth (Israel is small and therefore it doesn’t take long to reach her vital centres).

So where are we going with all of this?

The important issue now is that if Egypt falls, and with it Israel’s peace-deal with her south-western neighbour, Israel will be surrounded by hostile regimes. That is not to say that we will see a repeat of 1967 or 1973, but the conditions that brought about this tumultuous period may well be prominent again.

Within this background, Israel may be less at ease with letting Hizballah mass troops on the northern border, yet will have to have to recognise that a ‘New Egypt’, under any direction, may not be so willing to allow Israel to exercise its force within the region with no threat of retaliatory action from Egypt.

Therefore, it will be Israel’s hope, as well as the entire Western world, that a peaceful transition into democracy within Egypt can occur, without radical elements to coming into fruition. If radicalism does take charge, then Iran may not be the only ones harking back to the days of the 1970s’, as Israel may be forced to opt for security over peace.

Here’s to hoping we don’t erase forty years of peace negotiations for the sake of ‘democratically elected’ extremists.

by John Corner

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