Barak: Arab Spring may not become Islamic Winter

Defense minister says Islamist majority in Egyptian parliament may worsen relationship with Israel, but won't break peace treaty.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak _311 (photo credit: Reuters/Blaire Gable)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak _311
(photo credit: Reuters/Blaire Gable)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday said it is too soon to know if the Arab Spring will become an Islamic Winter and that he does not foresee an Islamist parliament in Egypt breaking the peace treaty with Israel.
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Barak said that the quantity and magnitude of changes in the region require a deep level of strategic thought. "The confluence of events and their intensity serves as a 'strategic warning' that requires attention and a response on a different level," Barak said.
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He went on to outline the potential for security challenges in the North and South: a change in power in Syria could have implications for the Golan, and that Sinai could become a training ground for terrorist groups.
Iran, he said, is watching events in Syria with a careful eye, concerned both about losing its closest strategic ally and the possibility that the Iranian people will take a cue from their Syrian counterparts and rise up in protest. Although prospects for crippling sanctions against the Islamic Republic and its nuclear program are low, Barak said, new sanctions on its oil sector and central bank are increasing pressure on it.
While the United States has an "almost identical" vision on Iran as Israel, Barak explained, its current focus on economic and domestic issues hinders its ability to project power in the region, even though it remains the world's only superpower.
Finally, Barak emphasized the importance of pursuing a two-state solution with the Palestinians, endorsing a return to negotiations. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are set to meet in Amman on Tuesday for the first pubic direct talks in over a year.