Not predictable

April 7, 2011

It has taken the commentariat a long time to wake up to it, but the first lesson of the Arab Spring seems at last to have been noticed by some: Israel, a democratic, economically successful nation with a free press and judiciary, which is willing to put its ex-president and prime minister in the dock, is a solution to the problems of the Middle East and not their cause. As for the second lesson: the revolts against tyranny do not necessarily mean that the Middle East is set on a path towards pluralism and good government. Egypt is providing the clearest warning: when it voted earlier this month on a post-revolutionary constitution in the first free elections most Egyptians had ever had the chance to take part in, a mere 41 per cent of the electorate headed to the polling booths. Those who did, voted overwhelmingly for the Muslim Brotherhood. And this week, the new Egyptian Foreign Minister, Nabil Al-Arabi, said that he would open a "new page" with Iran. None of this is to say that the upshot of these events will not be immensely positive. But we need to remember that the outcomes are not remotely predictable. And that is a lesson in Libya. We should be asking: exactly who are the rebels, and what do they want?

Last updated: 12:03pm, April 7 2011