Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

Danin analyzes critical developments and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

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President Trump: Peace Processor

by Robert M. Danin
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Monroe Room of the State Department in Washington September 2, 2010 (Jason Reed/Reuters)

President Donald Trump’s evolving views on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear to be coming into greater focus as he prepares to welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House later this week.

Over the past few months, Trump has expressed two broad sentiments seemingly in tension with one another. In his first interview after the November 2016 vote, then President-elect Trump reiterated a previously expressed desire to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling it “the ultimate deal.” Read more »

President Trump’s Settlement Policy Breaks Ground

by Robert M. Danin
Houses in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev are seen from the Israeli settlement of Givon Ha'hadasha (Baz Ratner/Reuters).

For the first dozen days of the Trump administration, it seemed to Israelis that they had a free hand to settle the West Bank. Israel announced its intention to build thousands of new houses, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood before the Knesset and declared that Israel would establish its first new settlement in decades. Washington said nothing. Read more »

Paved with Good Intentions? France’s Middle East Peace Conference

by Robert M. Danin
French President Francois Hollande (L) welcomes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Elysee Palace in Paris January 16, 2015 (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters).

The Madrid peace conference in 1991 to launch comprehensive Arab-Israeli negotiations was a diplomatic triumph. The 2007 Annapolis conference relaunched peace-making and a new, well-prepared three track security, economic, and political process on pre-negotiated terms of reference just a few years after the violent second Intifada. These were important moments—historically, and diplomatically. Read more »

Secretary Kerry’s Vision-Seeking Israeli-Palestinian Speech

by Robert M. Danin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leaves the podium after speaking with the media in Manhattan, New York, September 22, 2016 (Darrin Ornitz/Reuters).

Secretary of State John Kerry just delivered the speech he’s been eager to give for several years. Following the abrupt failure of his ambitious all-or-nothing peace initiative in April 2014, Kerry and some of his aides have suggested that their efforts had actually broken important diplomatic ground, and that they had produced new innovative formulas for a conflict-ending comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The secretary apparently wanted to share these ideas, if for no other reason than to document publicly the seriousness of his efforts and as one final plea over the urgency of solving a problem he is convinced will soon become insoluble due to dynamic changes on the ground—namely Israeli settlement activity. Read more »

Trump May Inadvertently Force Netanyahu’s Hand

by Robert M. Danin
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump during their meeting in New York, September 25, 2016 (Reuters)

The election of Donald Trump has fueled an intense struggle within Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over the future disposition of the West Bank that Israel has occupied for nearly fifty years.

At one end of the debate is coalition partner and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the pro-settler Jewish Home party. Bennett declared Israel effectively unshackled by American constraints on settlement activity the day after Trump’s victory, saying the “era of a Palestinian state is over.” Bennett has also called for Israel to take immediate steps to annex parts of the West Bank. On Sunday, Bennett reportedly met in New York with three members of President-Elect Trump’s team and urged the new administration to consider alternatives to the land-for-peace approach pursued by previous American presidents. Read more »

Foreign Affairs: The Struggle For Israel

by Robert M. Danin
The front cover of the July/August 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs (Design by Stavros Pavlides).

The July/August print edition of Foreign Affairs, entitled “The Struggle for Israel,” is out. It includes interviews with several leading Israeli politicians and articles by veteran analysts Aluf Benn, Amos Harel, As’ad Ghanem, and Martin Kramer. Read more »

Diplomacy Disonnected from Real Israeli-Palestinian Developments

by Robert M. Danin
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (R) and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attend an international and interministerial conference in a bid to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in Paris, France, June 3, 2016 (Stephane de Sakutin/Reuters).

Foreign Ministers from over two dozen countries convened in Paris today to find a way to restart moribund Israeli and Palestinian negotiations. Nether Israeli nor Palestinian officials were present, however. That is but one of the many reasons that this latest French effort seems detached from the realities on the ground and in the politics of the Middle East today. I discuss the latest diplomatic efforts emanating from Paris, Cairo, and Riyadh, as well as the political upheavals taking place in Israeli and Palestinian politics today in an interview with You can read the full interview here.

The Middle East Is in for a Tumultuous 2016

by Robert M. Danin
Flames rise from Saudi Arabia's embassy during the January 2, 2016, demonstration in Tehran (Mehdi Ghasemi/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on on Wednesday, January 6, 2016.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Iran after authorities executed a popular Shiite cleric. Anyone watching this meltdown unfold has every reason to think of worse-case scenarios, as it will only deepen the Middle East’s widening sectarian divide, intensify the region’s multiple conflicts, and set back efforts to defeat the Islamic State and end the bloodshed in Syria. Read more »

Syria By the Numbers VIII

by Robert M. Danin
Men wash blood off a coffin along a street in Jabal al-Zawiya in the southern countryside of Idlib January 4, 2015. Picture taken January 4, 2015. Stringer/Reuters

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) recently announced that the death toll from Syria’s conflict now exceeds 230,000 people. In May 2014, SOHR had put the death toll at 160,000 people, indicating more than 70,000 people killed in Syria over the past year alone. Read more »

Four Strategic Challenges for Israel’s Next Government

by Robert M. Danin
An Israeli soldier picks his ballot at a polling station in a navy base in the southern city of Ashdod January 20, 2013 (Cohen/Courtesy Reuters).

Israel’s next government will assume the mantle of a strong and prosperous country. While facing a range of security challenges and tremendous regional turmoil, Israel today enjoys a preponderance of power over any likely regional threat or adversarial coalition. Its national economy is robust, and the country’s national cohesion remains exceptionally strong. Read more »