Netanyahu also stressed on several occasions that external observers were mistaken in seeing the so-called Arab Spring as a redux of Eastern Europe in 1989, stressing instead how the regional uprising would lead to an “Iranian winter.” The skepticism displayed by the government has also affected the Israeli population, with opinion polls showing the public’s concern that the Arab Spring would not benefit Israel.
In recent months, as the post-revolutionary Arab transitions have indeed led to internal as well as some regional instability, the Israeli government has continued to keep its head low as an approach to weathering the regional storm. Deeply aware of its own unpopularity in the Middle East and the limited political and diplomatic tools it has to directly impact the shifting regional dynamics, Israel has chosen a largely passive policy, focusing on maintaining peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and beefing up security.
Israel has been correct in warning international enthusiasts to hold their horses and delay their celebrations over liberal democracies flourishing overnight in the region. The country is also right in refraining from taking an overly active role, as this assistance would be seen as interference and promptly rejected. But the current policy of passive entrenchment may prove deeply flawed, and the shift in Israeli government may provide a needed opportunity for a change in policy on that front.
Put simply, as the entire region changes, standing still and retreating inward may not work. It is time for Israel to take a more proactive role.