THE ARAB SPRING, the Arab street, and Gaza:
Israel's assassination of senior Hamas military commander Ahmad Jabari and launching of a major air campaign against Gaza on Wednesday poses the first serious test of the effect of the Arab uprisings on Israel. Egyptian President Mohammed el-Morsi declared that "Egypt today is different from yesterday, and Arabs today are different from yesterday." Israel is gambling that he's wrong, that the Arab uprisings have changed little, and that Arab leaders will continue to act much as they did during its 2008-09 war against Gaza, controlling popular anger while doing little beyond perhaps some more heated rhetoric.
This poses the first real test of some of the biggest questions about the real strategic significance of the Arab uprisings of the last two years. Do the uprisings really constrain Israel's ability to wage wars such as the 2006 war against Hezbollah or 2008/09 war against Gaza? In what way? Would the empowerment of a mobilized Arab public force Arab leaders to adopt significantly different policies towards Israel? Would democratically elected Islamist leaders like Morsi really change core foreign policy positions such as the commitment to the Camp David peace treaty? Would intense political competition, popular mobilization, or different ideologies outweigh the cold calculations of Realpolitik and hopes for international acceptance? It's far too soon to know the answers to these profound questions -- and the signals are mixed.