On Tuesday I attended a talk given by Professor Benny Morris at a House of Commons Select Committee Room. Benny Morris had been invited to speak by the Henry Jackson Society on the subject of the implications for Israel of the so-called’ Arab Spring’. Benny Morris is a leading Israeli historian and a Professor of Middle eastern History at Ben-Gurion University in Israel as well as the Kennedy-Leigh Fellow at the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Oxford University. He has written a number of bestselling books and his articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and journals.
The Select Committee room hosting the event was dotted with MPs and Peers who had slipped into the event to hear Morris’s views on the escalating revolutionary situation in the Arab World.
Morris proposed two chief consequences of the Arab Spring for Israel, both negative. First, Israel would suffer as a result of international attention being directed away from Iran and towards the Arab world. Morris proposes that the particular form of Islam adopted by the Iranian leadership is so extreme that any success for Iran in achieving nuclear weapons would be absolutely fatal for Israel. If the West continue to concentrate on Libya, Syria and other such countries undergoing revolution and does not focus sufficiently on Iran, a nuclear war could be a serious possibility.
Second, Morris suggested that the Arab Spring will bring a more severe threat to the existence of Israel from the neighbouring Arab countries which undergo revolution. Although countries like Egypt and Syria appear to be under the influence of democratic transformers, the likelihood is that any elections will give new power to extremist groups, notably the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the umbrella organisation which is made up of groups such as Hamas, the internationally recognised terrorist organisation in control of the Gaza strip.
Thus, the Arab Spring poses two new severe threats to the existence of Israel. Morris did also highlight the need for Israel to be strong in offering a two-state solution and show the international community Israel wants peace.
However, for me at least, the fundamental conclusion of Morris’s speech must have been that the future of Israel depends upon Western intervention and pressure on the region to prevent the success of extremists, particularly in Iran, but also in the rest of the Arab world.