Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Gaza"

Israelis and Palestinians: And Then What?

by Steven A. Cook
A pedestrian walks in the centre of Jerusalem (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters). A pedestrian walks in the centre of Jerusalem (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters).

In December 1987 the first intifada began after a traffic accident involving an Israeli truck and a Palestinian pedestrian outside the Jabaliya refugee camp set off a wave of demonstrations against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The sudden volleys of rocks pelting Israeli soldiers and the tear gas and rubber bullets in response changed the complexion of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians almost overnight, likely forever. The mighty Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were not traversing the Sinai Peninsula in three days, rescuing hostages in Entebbe, or spending two daring minutes over Baghdad, but breaking teenagers’ bones on the streets of Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, and Gaza City. David had become Goliath and had no answer for Daoud’s slingshot. The Israelis must have been rattled by the images on television and pictures published in the press because, a few months after it all began, the Israeli consul general started doing the rounds of universities and colleges in the New York area to provide Jerusalem’s perspective on the unrest. I remember attending one such event on a chilly evening in a half-empty room at Vassar’s College Center. During the Q&A a member of the audience recalled an encounter with someone he identified as an “Arab friend in Israel.” He alleged that during a debate over politics his friend relayed that, despite their relationship, he would kill him if and when communal violence erupted. It was an odd non sequitur to what had, until that moment, been an interesting discussion thankfully lacking the overwrought theatrics of more recent conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on America’s campuses. Read more »

Hasbara…Hasbara Everywhere

by Steven A. Cook
Doctors help an injured resident at the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) field hospital following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters). Doctors help an injured resident at the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) field hospital following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week Israel took criticism for sending a contingent of doctors and search and rescue specialists to Nepal to participate in the earthquake relief efforts. Read that again. There is no “not” in between “for” and “sending.” The Israel Defense Forces sent 260 doctors, nurses, and personnel trained in finding disaster victims to Katmandu after the major (7.8 on the Richter scale) earthquake…and it was quickly dismissed as propaganda to deflect attention from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis have a lot to answer for when it comes to the Palestinians, from continued expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank to death and destruction in Gaza, but what do those issues have to do with earthquake relief in Nepal? Apparently everything the Israelis do is hasbara. Read more »

The Last Great Myth About Egypt

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Monday, July 21, 2014.

In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger fell in love with Anwar Sadat. To Kissinger, the Egyptian president “had the wisdom and courage of the statesman and occasionally the insight of the prophet.” It was from this romance that a set of ideas about Egypt became inculcated in American Middle East policy: Egypt would be a bulwark against the Soviet Union, a base from which U.S. forces would launch in the event of a crisis in the Persian Gulf, and a mediator between Arabs — especially the Palestinians — and Israelis. Read more »

Weekend Reading: 1967 Borders, Sectarianism in Egypt, and the Options for Iran

by Steven A. Cook
A vendor works on a copper item to be sold in a shop in Baghdad's al-Safafeer Souq bazaar (Mohammed Ameen/Courtesy Reuters). A vendor works on a copper item to be sold in a shop in Baghdad's al-Safafeer Souq bazaar (Mohammed Ameen/Courtesy Reuters).

Dahlia Scheindlin evaluates the pragmatism of Ghazi Hamad,  Deputy Foreign Minister of Gaza, who publicly recognized the 1967 borders last week. Read more »

Israel’s Jerusalem “Piece Process”

by Steven A. Cook
Jewish settlers hold Israeli flags and shout slogans from their balcony at left-wing activists (not seen) during a demonstration to show solidarity with Palestinians against a newly dedicated Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem (Amir Cohen/Courtesy Reuters). Jewish settlers hold Israeli flags and shout slogans from their balcony at left-wing activists (not seen) during a demonstration to show solidarity with Palestinians against a newly dedicated Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem (Amir Cohen/Courtesy Reuters).

So it has begun.  President Barack Obama travels to Israel—as well as Palestine and Jordan—this week and columnists, bloggers, and foreign policy wonks of all stripes have begun commenting on the visit.  My friend Aaron Miller weighed in Sunday morning with a big article in the Washington Post’s “Outlook” section about where the President can find common ground with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, though most of the piece was devoted to the relationship with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The National’s Hugh Naylor quotes Yossi Bellin, who will forever be identified as an “architect of the 1993 Oslo Accords,” as stating boldly that President Obama should not bother making the trip unless he comes with proposals to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end. Overall, there have been at least sixteen articles and op-eds in the past few weeks dealing with the peace process and President Obama’s travels to the region. Most of them are in line with the low expectations that the White House has set ahead of the visit, suggesting that the meetings between the President and Israeli prime minister will deal almost exclusively with Syria and Iran. That may be the case, but there are some modest expectations bubbling up on the peace process. Read more »

Still Think Middle East Peace Doesn’t Matter?

by Steven A. Cook
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.  Read more »

In Shifting Sands of Middle East, Who Will Lead?

by Steven A. Cook
Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh and the Emir of Qatar arrive at a cornerstone laying ceremony in Khan Younis (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters) Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh and the Emir of Qatar arrive at a cornerstone laying ceremony in Khan Younis (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters)

This article was originally published here on CSMonitor.com on Thursday, November 15, 2012

Even before the recent round of Hamas rockets and airstrikes from Israel in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave was in the news as the diplomatic destination of choice for the leaders of the Middle East. Last month, the emir of Qatar visited Gaza. Bahrain’s embattled king is also weighing such a trip. Turkey’s prime minister, too, announced his intention to travel to the strip. Read more »

Brother Knows Best

by Steven A. Cook
Egyptian soldiers stand guard at Rafah border crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Courtesy Reuters). Egyptian soldiers stand guard at Rafah border crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Thursday, August 9. 

Shortly after the Aug. 5 killing of 16 paramilitary policemen near Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip, Egyptian, Israeli, and U.S. officials determined that the perpetrators were part of an “extremist group” — one they have yet to identify. According to official accounts, assailants firing AK-47s attacked the conscripts and officers as they prepared for iftar, the traditional breaking of the Ramadan fast. Eight of the terrorists were killed in the ensuing firefight, but not before the perpetrators hijacked an armored personnel carrier and tried unsuccessfully to cross the Egypt-Israel frontier. Read more »

Sinai Again

by Steven A. Cook
An Egyptian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Rafah city on the Egyptian border (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). An Egyptian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Rafah city on the Egyptian border (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

In light of Sunday’s events in which a dozen Egyptian policemen were killed near the Rafah border in addition to ongoing violence in Gaza, I am re-posting three pieces I have written on Sinai over the last year.  As always, comments are welcome.  Many thanks. Read more »