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A top adviser to the Israeli prime minister marveled at the changes in the Middle East since he was last in Washington.

“Nobody could have predicted the Arab Spring, the meltdown of the euro or the change in America’s position in the world,” Zalman Shoval told old colleagues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s easier to predict the past than the future.”

Mr. Shoval served two tours as Israel’s ambassador to the United States and now is advising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He said his country’s government is worried about the upheaval in Arab countries - especially in Egypt, where deposed President Hosni Mubarak maintained peace with the Jewish state.

Islamist parties won the most seats in parliamentary elections in Egypt last week.

“The Arab Spring [is] much more an Islamist winter,” Mr. Shoval said, adding that the region increasingly has turned “topsy-turvy.”

He noted that Syria is the “indispensable link to Iran and Hezbollah” militants in Lebanon and that Syrian President Bashar Assad is “most likely” to fall in a civil war that has claimed 4,000 lives since protests began in January.

Mr. Shoval said the United States must stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. “Anything less will be seen as abject failure and a signal to some Arab allies that they cannot rely on [the United States].”

Mr. Shoval also dismissed critics who call on Israel to make more concessions to the Palestinians, blaming the Arabs for refusing to return to peace talks. He also said the region would remain in turmoil even if Israel did not exist.

“If Israel … were to disappear,” he said, “the Middle East would not be Scandinavia.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washington The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.