They’ve happened in virtually every other nation across the Middle East. They’ve brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and are on the verge of doing the same in Yemen. They’ve started a massive civil war in Libya, and have led to mass arrests and massacres in Bahrain and Syria.
They are non-violent pro-democracy protests, and in a region used to dealing with violent protests with equally violent crackdowns, they are a terrifying prospect for those in power. That fear of masses of peaceful civilians expressing reasonable demands extends everywhere, including Israel.
That is the message coming out of Israel’s military, where top officers are expressing concerns that a march as small as 4,000 civilians would be virtually unstoppable, so long as it remains peaceful, in the West Bank. They have learned the lesson of the other regimes, that “determined people cannot be stopped by tear gas and rubber bullets.” Indeed, another official warned that “if we are to face protests similar to those in Egypt or Tunisia, we will not be able to do a thing.”
The fear is a realistic one, as Israeli officials say the Palestinian effort at UN recognition in September could spark such rallies. Pro-democracy protesters, seeking the right to elect their rulers instead of living under perpetual occupation, would not be out of place in the Arab Spring, and as with every other regime, Israel would have no good answer.