Job 1: Keeping Israel safe amid chaos in Mideast

A coup in Egypt. A bloody civil war in Syria. A resurgent al-Qaida forcing dozens of U.S. embassy closures. Clearly the Arab world is in chaos, and anyone who cares about Israel or Middle East stability should pay attention.

When the so-called Arab Spring erupted two years ago, many believed all would turn out well, and that the changes would usher in an era of peaceful Western-style democracy.

That did not occur. Instead the Arab world exploded. In Egypt, last month’s military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi triggered waves of protest and counter-protest. Leaders and supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested and killed.

At the same time, the Egyptian military cracked down on Islamist terrorists who had been operating with impunity in the Sinai Desert. The army has killed dozens while shutting down Hamas’ weapons-smuggling tunnels to Gaza.

While the long-term ramifications of all this remain unclear, supporters of Israel must feel cautiously optimistic. Over the years, the Egyptian military has been a reliable partner for Israel. Yes, we recoil at its knee-jerk impulse to repress any dissent, but the alternative — a Muslim Brotherhood government in bed with Hamas — was no better, and was also rejected by the Egyptian people.

Any optimism over Egypt is tempered, however, by fear of Islamist terror in places like Yemen, Iraq and Syria. Despite years of drone attacks and headlines claiming al-Qaida had been decimated, we now learn the infamous terror organization is resilient enough to trigger the temporary shutdown of our embassies across the region.

If that’s not bad enough, al-Qaida also has infiltrated the uprising in Syria. Should rebels ultimately vanquish dictator Bashar Assad and set up a jihadist state on Israel’s border, the world may wish for Assad’s return.

There is no easy way to navigate the choppy waters of the new Middle East. The Sunni-Shia divide is more contentious than ever, with alliances and enmities in constant shift. A world in which viciously anti-Zionist imams in Egypt issue death orders against the Lebanese-based terror organization Hezbol-lah is more complicated than meets the eye.

What is to be done? The United States must maintain a strong presence, helping however it can while protecting its regional interests, chief among them Israel’s safety and security.

More change will inevitably come to the Arab world. But one thing will not change: A strong and vibrant Israel is here to stay, despite any Arab spring, summer or winter. n