In 2012, amid the ongoing ferment of the so-called "Arab Spring," officials throughout the Israeli government were expressing deep concern about their country's strategic position, and the potential for conflict on a multitude of fronts. Today, by contrast, Israel's security establishment can best be described as cautiously optimistic about its geopolitical situation, and with good reason.
The first is Egypt. The late June ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government has restored a measure of normalcy on Israel's southwestern border, notwithstanding the country's current political spasms. Israeli officials pin Morsi's failure, above all, on the pronounced deterioration of the domestic economic situation on his watch, which in turn mobilized both local activists and the country's powerful military establishment. Whatever the reason, the outcome is a net benefit for Israel, since during its tenure Morsi's government had staked out a very public anti-Israeli and anti-Western position. With its collapse and subsequent replacement with a military-dominated caretaker regime, Israeli policymakers now see renewed possibilities for engagement and strategic dialogue with Cairo.
To be sure, the Sinai Peninsula remains a source of continuing concern. The desert area separating Israel from Egypt, which descended into lawlessness and criminality with the end of the Mubarak regime in 2011, remains a locus of instability today. To ameliorate this situation, Israel has permitted Egypt to reinsert forces into the previously-demilitarized territory over the past year, where they now are waging a pitched battle against criminal elements and radical irregulars. Overall, however, Israel's government appears comfortable with how the Egyptian military is handling the situation, and willing to allow Cairo to take the lead in reestablishing order in the Sinai.
Moreover, the effects of Egypt's transformation are being felt far beyond Israel's southwestern border. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, there are clear signs that the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has diminished the appeal of Islamist forces throughout the region. The rule of King Abdullah in neighboring Jordan, for example, appears more stable than it was just a short time ago, as Islamist elements within the Hashemite Kingdom have been forced to limit and temper their political ambitions in light of the Brotherhood's collapse. In North Africa, too, salutary changes have taken place in the political outlook and ambitions of Islamist parties in places like Tunisia and Algeria.
The result has been a perceptible shift in the direction of the "Arab Spring." The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, Iran's loss of legitimacy (a function of its stubborn support for the Syrian regime), and the current domestic troubles prevailing in Turkey have left the countries of the region without a workable political and ideological model to follow. It is not clear what comes next, but there is a clear sense in Jerusalem of both expectancy and of opportunity for Israel to navigate a strategic environment that has gradually become more hospitable than it was previously.