The 'Arab Spring' is not a harbinger of a more liberal and democratic Middle East, he has argued. Rather, this year's upheaval – still under way in Syria, Yemen, and even Egypt – signals greater instability that could stir up extremism against Israel and its allies. Mr. Netanyahu has firmly maintained, in the face of criticism from both Washington and opponents at home, that that means that Israel must take a conservative approach to peacemaking with its Arab neighbors.
As hundreds of thousands of protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir Square clashed with Egyptian security forces last week, Netanyahu ridiculed political opponents who had pressured him to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to improve Israel’s regional image.
" 'It is ... the right time,' you said. 'Don't miss the opportunity,' " he said. "But I do not base Israel's policy on illusion. The earth is shaking.'
Since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, Israel has managed to maintain good ties with Egypt’s interim military rulers despite several flare-ups. But the renewed demonstrations in Tahrir Square last week, in which public anger with military rule boiled over into clashes that killed at least 40, showed that long-term military control is far from assured. And distaste for Israel is one of the few consensus positions in Egyptian politics, from the far left to the religious right.
Netanyahu was quoted yesterday as telling Israeli lawmakers that while Israel wants to bolster its peace treaty with Egypt, the region has been destabilized by an Islamist wave. Last week he said that Arab countries "are not moving forward toward progress, they are moving backwards."