Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Still Think Middle East Peace Doesn’t Matter?

by Steven A. Cook
November 20, 2012

Egyptian protesters shout slogans against Israel's ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip, in old Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Egyptian protesters shout slogans against Israel's ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip, in old Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

The article below was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Monday, November 19, 2012. I look forward to reading your comments. 

Everyone knew it was coming. Once the giddy days of the Arab uprising had passed, it was the subject of discussion at almost every roundtable, panel discussion, and bull session among Middle East analysts: What about Gaza?

How would Arab governments, newly responsive to their people, handle a replay of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, the bloody offensive in Gaza that commenced almost exactly four years ago? At the time, U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration and President-elect Barack Obama’s team could rely on figures like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II to help contain the conflict and ensure that the status quo remained, even after the Israel Defense Forces withdrew their tanks and the rockets stopped flying.

That was another era. The dynamics of the Israel-Hamas conflict that led to the current fighting are similar to those of 2008, but nothing else is. With citizens throughout the region demanding a reversal of the policies of the past, observers of the region implicitly understood that the Arab world’s leaders — both old and new — would face great pressure to demonstrate that they are responsive to public opinion and hold Israel and the United States “accountable” for their actions.

At those bull sessions — invariably called, “The Middle East Undergoing Change: Strategic Implications” or something equally snooze-inducing — the response to a new Gaza war was often shrugs, sighs, and raised eyebrows. The body language meant: “Let’s hope nothing happens so that we don’t have to think about it.”

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