The second major development was the "Arab Spring," a series of protests in surrounding Middle Eastern nations. This phenomenon began in
Tunisia on January 18th. It spread to Egypt just one week later and to other countries within a few more weeks. It was a revolt of mostly
poor people against the dictatorial regimes of corrupt, high-living dictators. Most unexpectedly, these protests were fanned by the use of
social networks, especially by Facebook messages that called the disturbed people to amass in certain places, like Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Egyptians came by the thousands, and eventually by the hundreds of thousands to clamor for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.
He gradually turned over control to the country's military, and was forced to resign some time later. In ill health and disgrace,
Mubarak was charged in May to stand trial for the premeditated murder of peaceful protestors.
At the end of the year his trial is still in process. If he is convicted, he could face the death penalty.
The "Arab Spring" spread to Yemen, bringing about the resignation of their Prime Minister, and to Libya where a brutal civil war eventually
brought down the 42-year dictatorship of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi tried to the end to resist the uprising, but was finally caught, beat,
and shot by the opposition. NATO air strikes were used to bolster the opposition, but critics warned that the US and European nations may regret
enabling unknown leaders who are probably radical Islamists to take over the country.
Over time, there were also major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and Syria. The Syrian situation has become very severe,
and continues past the end of this year. UN reports claim that more than 5,000 people, mainly protesters, have been killed, and thousands have been
imprisoned. The actions of the Syrian government has been condemned by all observers, but the regime of President Bashar al-Assad does not yet
appear to be willing to give in to the protestors.
These major changes in countries surrounding Israel, and especially the situation in Egypt, put Israel on alert status. It was possible that the
long-standing peace agreement between Israel and Egypt could be nullified. In February Gabi Ashkenazi, the outgoing Chief of the Israel Defense
Forces, warned that Israel must be prepared to conduct war in several different theaters. He also said that the radical camp in the Middle East
is gaining strength while the traditional Arab leadership is weakening.
In March Palestinian Hamas militants conducted their strongest attack against Israel in two years, firing dozens of mortars into southern Israel.
Hamas and other terrorist groups were thought to have at least 10,000 missiles and rockets. Israel retaliated with air strikes in Gaza City and
militant training camps.
Israel quelled the Hamas rocket attacks by striking back decisively, and because of the success of its new "Iron Dome" missile defense system.
The Iron Dome's debut on the battlefield intercepted 100 percent of the longer-range Grad-type missiles launched
By April, while still fighting with Hamas, Israel was also being threatened again by Hezbollah from the North. The terrorist group that is
aligned with Syria and Iran had quadrupled its bunkers in Lebanon and had more than 40,000 rockets and missiles aimed at nearby population
centers in Israel.
By June Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that he would still prefer to have direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu than to ask the UN to declare Palestine a separate state without a peace agreement with Israel. But in August he had
adopted a belligerent tone toward Israel and criticized the International Quartet for urging him to agree that Israel is a Jewish state. He said, "Don't order us to recognize a Jewish state. We won't accept it."
At the end of August, just before the official launch of the Palestinian's UN statehood campaign, China surprised the world by publicly
endorsing the concept. A letter was sent from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the Secretary General of United Nations to "exert all possible efforts toward the achievement of the Palestinian people's just demands." Abbas spoke to the UN General on May 23. During that speech he expressed strong anti-Israeli sentiments. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was then given the opportunity to speak. He said that the Palestinians want to have a state without first establishing peace. He added, "I came here to speak the truth. The truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that Israel wants peace with the Palestinians, but they want a state without peace, and the truth is you shouldn't let that happen."
Some individual countries have offered recognition to Palestine and some UN offices display the Palestinian flag, but as of the end of the
year Palestinians do not yet have the 9 votes needed on the UN Security Council to pass the resolution that would give them UN status as an
independent state. Even if they eventually gain the votes the U.S. has the power to veto it.
In October the Middle East Quartet said that they will try to restart peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian representatives
in the coming days. Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel is ready to participate immediately.