Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said Tuesday it will take more time to determine how the Arab Spring, and the new governments it has ushered in, will affect Middle East nations' relations with Israel.
He also indicated that the Jewish state is keeping a close eye on developments in neighboring Syria, where protesters are challenging the rule of President Bashar Assad. “We do see a possible ouster of Mr. Assad as affording an opportunity to us,” Ambassador Oren said at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters.
Oren cautioned that the Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia last December with demonstrations surrounding the self-immolation of a vegetable seller named Mohammed Bouazizi, “is still in an inchoate period. And I think it is going to take a while to see how it plays out” in terms of various nations' relations with Israel, he said.
Israel’s man in Washington noted that the Arab world is “focusing on their internal challenges, on job opportunities, futures for their children, figuring out how the democratic system works for them.” The American-born Oren, who was educated at Columbia University and Princeton, added, “eventually they will address the question of [their] relationship with Israel, and I hope they address it in a positive way.”
As a result of the Arab Spring, old governments are out in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and new governments are taking shape. In Syria, President Assad is using the military to suppress demonstrations against his regime. The United Nations says 3,000 people have died in the crackdown there. Over the weekend, the United States withdrew its ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, citing threats to his safety.
Oren offered two examples of how Assad's downfall would be beneficial to Israel.
“We think that would possibly weaken the alliance between Syria and Iran. It would possibly loosen the Syrian stranglehold of Lebanon,” he said. “It would be good for just about everybody in the region except for the Ba’athist regime,” which has held power in Syria since 1963.