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Unisa online - Arab uprisings: an Israeli perspective

From left: HE Dov Segev-Steinberg (Israeli Ambassador), Dr Siphamandla Zondi (Director IGD) and Dr David Govrin (Director: Middle East and Peace Process Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Israel)

It is said that a story is best told in the first person because the story teller focuses on creating a bond between him/herself and the listener. It is on this premise that the Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD) hosted a diplomacy dialogue on 30 July 2012 entitled “The Arab Spring – Major Trends and Regional Implications”. The dialogue, which reviewed the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region through the lens of the state of Israel, was addressed by Dr David Govrin, Director of the Middle East and Peace Process Division of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Providing the prelude for the dialogue, Dr Siphamandla Zondi, Director of the IGD, indicated that the diplomacy dialogue presented an opportunity to consider the nuances underpinning the Arab uprisings and the implications these have for the region, from an Israeli perspective. “A perspective from an Israeli scholar who is also a public servant is an important one in our understanding of what is happening in that region,” said Zondi. He added that the happenings in the MENA will affect other regions too, a point that was echoed by the main speaker.

Dr Govrin started his lecture by describing the characteristic of the Arab  uprisings,  highlighting that the  developments are not only transforming the balance of power in the region, but could also have significant implications for bi-lateral relations between the states in the region, as each state responds to the changing dynamics as it deems appropriate. The career diplomat added that in most cases the youth who drive these revolutions normally do not form part of the new leadership, a development which he sees as a continued challenge for the region.

Most importantly, Dr Govrin observed that no country in the MENA will remain untouched by the unfolding developments in the region. He indicated that from an Israeli perspective, the democratic transition underway in its neighbourhood, if sustained, is a welcome development, in context of the search for a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nevertheless, Israel remains in a state of vigilance, and will be realistic in its response to any circumstances that are seen to be a threat to its security, he added.

Also in attendance was the Israeli Ambassador, HE Dov Segev-Steinberg who used his short introduction of the speaker to also express joy for having an opportunity to engage on this matter.

The dialogue was convened in the context of ongoing mass protests in the MENA region, which have largely been interpreted as a popular response to authoritarian rule and poor socio-economic development. Over a year after their inception, there is still considerable debate on the significance of the so-called uprisings, not only for the region, but for wider international relations.

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