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You'd have to be a very grumpy bear indeed not to be thrilled at the fall of Arab dictators, especially unmitigated creeps like Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, and the rise of a genuine democratic spirit across the Arab world.

But consider this. One immediate result of the Arab Spring is a brand new franchise operation for al-Q'aida.

In Egypt's Sinai desert, which borders Israel, a group has arrived announcing itself as al-Qa'ida in the Sinai Peninsula. Another group calls itself al-Shabab al-Islam (Youth of Islam).

The franchises are new and pretty undeveloped so far. As yet, al-Qa'ida central has not granted formal recognition to its aspiring Sinai franchise. But really, it's only a matter of time.

This week, an Israeli cabinet minister told me that looted Libyan weapons have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip.

In both Libya and Egypt, the prisons were emptied. Many innocent people were wrongly incarcerated in those prisons. But there were also many, many authentically extremist jihadists who have now gone back to the life of murder, suicide and caliphate building, which is their true love.

This could make the Sinai, in the words of the brilliant if perhaps over-stated American analyst Jeffrey Goldberg, the new Somalia.

Any end to a long-term dictatorship is messy and even a transition to a democracy will be full of trouble. History, however, offers a full range of alternative scenarios. Perhaps the best was the emergence of the Czech Republic after decades of communism. But against that cheerful experience, recall the fall of the Czar in Russia, the brief flower of Kerensky's democratic interlude and then the Bolshevik revolution and the torrents and torrents of blood that Soviet communism brought to the world. Or think of the French Revolution. Or even Iraq. Or Iran.

There is still much cause for hope in the Arab Spring, but we ought not to look away from the many unpleasant facts staring us in the face. Australia's best friend and closest ally in the Middle East is Israel. In many ways, Israel is the only expression in the Middle East, apart perhaps from some segments of Lebanon, of Western civilisation and values. In the long run, Israel would benefit immeasurably from more representative, democratic and successful Arab societies around it.

But as Keynes pointed out, in the long run we are all dead, and there's a lot to negotiate in the short run.

The Middle East commentator and author George Friedman has proposed in a recent essay a worrying but persuasive analytical grid for understanding the Arab Spring.

Friedman wrote: "(Egypt's) Mubarak, Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi all represented the old pan-Arab vision. A much better way to understand the Arab Spring is that it represented the decay of such regimes that were vibrant when they came to power in the 1960s and early 1970s but have fallen into ideological meaninglessness. Fatah (the dominant Palestinian political force) is part of this grouping, and while it still speaks for Palestinian nationalism as a secular movement, beyond that it is isolated from broader trends in the region. It is both at odds with rising religiosity and simultaneously mistrusted by the monarchies it tried to overthrow. Yet it controls the Palestinian proto-state, the Palestinian National Authority, and thus will be claiming a UN vote on Palestinian statehood. Hamas, on the other hand, is very representative of current trends in the Islamic world and holds significant popular support."

This is a disturbing but plausible interpretation of the Arab Spring. The temper of Egyptian populism since the fall of Hosni Mubarak has been increasingly Islamist. The young, secular protesters of Tahrir Square are hopelessly disorganised and divided, the Muslim Brotherhood, which exercised brilliant tactical quiet during the big demonstrations, has come to the fore and looks set to win well over a third of the vote in parliamentary elections.

It is intimidating the Egyptian military, which is terrified of itself becoming the hated object of popular demonstrations, into a quasi-alliance and it is reaching out to its Muslim Brotherhood cousins in Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Yesterday, I spoke at length to Efraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Israel's Bar-Ilan University. He recognises three big trends from the Arab Spring which promise complication, if not outright trouble, for Israel in the months ahead.