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Robert M. Danin

Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies

Expertise

Middle East, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan; Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

Programs

Middle East Program

Bio

Robert M. Danin is Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He headed the Jerusalem mission of the Quartet representative, Tony Blair, from April 2008 until August 2010. A former career State Department official with over twenty years of Middle East experience, Dr. Danin previously served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs with responsibilities for Israeli-Palestinian issues and Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. He also served at the National Security Council for over three years, first as director for Israeli-Palestinian affairs and the Levant and then as acting senior director for Near East and North African affairs. A recipient of the State Department's Superior Honor Award, Dr. Danin served as a Middle East and Gulf specialist on the secretary of state's policy planning staff, and as a State Department senior Middle East political and military analyst. Prior to joining the State Department, he worked as a Jerusalem-based journalist covering Israeli and Palestinian politics. Dr. Danin holds a BA in history from the University of California, Berkeley, an MSFS degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and a doctorate in the international relations of the Middle East from St. Antony's College, Oxford University.

Defining U.S. Interests in the Middle East

The United States constantly faces major challenges in the Middle East that require high-level attention and the commitment of significant military, economic, and diplomatic resources. Despite attempts to pivot toward Asia, senior U.S. officials find themselves spending a disproportionate amount of time on the Middle East. When deciding to use force in Syria and Iraq, provide military assistance to Egypt, or pursue sustained high-level initiatives to forge Israeli-Palestinian peace, American leaders invoke U.S. national interests in the Middle East. Rarely, however, are these interests clearly spelled out or are the assumptions on which they are based questioned. Since the end of the Cold War, the way that the United States has defined its interests in the Middle East has evolved in dramatic ways. These changed perceptions of U.S. national interests contributed to dramatic shifts in strategic priorities. Whereas the United States once sought to preserve regional stability above all, it came to see an imperative in transforming the region by toppling dictators and promoting democratic change. My work on these issues will result in a book on changing U.S. interests in the Middle East and suggest that the United States needs to define its interests with greater precision, while finding a way to narrow the gap between its ideals and actions in the region. I also convene the "Critical Issues in the Middle East" roundtable series and write the Middle East Matters blog.

The Future of the Two-State Solution

In 1991, the United States launched the first serious direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Madrid. In the more than twenty years since, negotiations have continued, from Oslo to Camp David to Annapolis to the more recent initiatives led by the Obama administration. With the failure of Secretary of State John Kerry's effort in April 2014, and the Gaza war that followed soon after, confidence in both the peace process and in U.S. leadership is at a low. Many analysts and policymakers question the possibilities for peace, while many Israelis and Palestinians doubt the viability of a two-state solution. Are peace negotiations possible, and if so under what conditions? Are there ways to push forward towards the end goal of two states in the absence of high-level negotiations? What can be achieved through a sustained effort at Palestinian state-building? What is to be done about Gaza's political and economic isolation? My work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a book chapter, a CFR policy memo, various op-eds, and blog posts—addresses these questions.

Featured Publications

Book

Pathways to Peace

In his chapter, "Integrating the Top-down with the Bottom-up Approach to Israeli-Palestinian Peace," CFR Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow Robert Danin analyzes the "bottom-up" approach to peacemaking, focusing on Palestinian state-building and institution-building, while noting the integral, mutually reinforcing connection between ground-up and top-down approaches to the peace process—one cannot succeed without the other.

See more in Middle East and North Africa; Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights; Politics and Strategy

All Publications

Op-Ed

NastyLeaks

Author: Robert M. Danin
Foreign Policy

Robert Danin says the Palestine Papers are not a triumph of transparency and good government for the Palestinian Authority but are instead a potential victory for enemies of peace in the Middle East.

See more in Israel; Palestine

Recent Activity from Middle East Matters

Events

Roundtable Series on Israeli and Palestinian Unilateralism

Director: Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
February 18, 2011—Present

Increasingly, Israelis and Palestinians are discussing unilateral steps they can take as an alternative to failed negotiating efforts. One notable option that is gaining traction is a possible Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood. Similarly, some Israelis are looking at steps they can take to ensure their security if bilateral agreements prove impossible. Made possible in part by the generous support of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Roundtable Series on Israeli and Palestinian Unilateralism aims to create a forum for an informed debate on unilateral actions by examining their legal and political implications and their possible consequences for the region.

Critical Issues in the Middle East Roundtable Series

Director: Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
October 18, 2010—Present

From the Atlantic to the Gulf of Oman, the Middle East is witnessing unprecedented change and transformation. At this pivotal time of popular uprisings, revolutions, and ongoing efforts toward Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, this roundtable series seeks to generate a deeper, richer understanding of the vast array of issues currently shaping the region. To this end, the series brings together policymakers, opinion leaders, and government officials with the most intimate knowledge of the Middle East to enrich the dialogue both on developments in the region and U.S. policy.

CFR Events

General Meeting ⁄ New York

NY Town Hall: Middle East Update

Panelists:

Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations, Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
July 22, 2014 12:15-12:45 p.m. - Lunch
12:45-2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

The State of Israel: Past, Present, and Future

Panelists:

Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Ari Shavit, Senior Columnist, Haaretz Newspaper; Author, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

Presider:

David Remnick, Editor, The New Yorker
November 20, 2013 12:30-1:00 p.m. - Lunch
1:00-2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

General Meeting ⁄ Washington

Iran: The Nuclear Challenge

Speakers:

Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Richard A. Falkenrath, Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Adjunct Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Editor, Iran: The Nuclear Challenge
June 7, 2012 6:00-6:30 p.m. - Dinner Reception
6:30-7:30 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Symposium

Session Five: Policy Responses for the United States and Europe

Speakers:

Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Eugene Rogan, Faculty Fellow and University Lecturer in the Modern History of the Middle East, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, Gideon Rose, Peter G. Peterson Chair and Editor, Foreign Affairs
March 29, 2012 - March 30, 2012 8:30-8:45 a.m.

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Academic Conference Call

Israel and Palestine: A Fragile Relationship

Speaker:

Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
September 28, 2011 12:00-1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Corporate Meeting

Post-Qaddafi Instability in Libya

Speakers:

Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Daniel P. Serwer, Professorial Lecturer and Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Presider:

James M. Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations
August 22, 2011 3:00-4:00 p.m.

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

Eni Enrico Mattei Chair in Middle East and Africa Studies: The Arab Uprisings: Initial Observations

Speaker:

Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations

Introductory Speaker:

Paolo Scaroni, Chief Executive Officer, Eni
June 23, 2011 5:30-6:00 p.m. - Cocktail Reception
6:00-7:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Press/Panels

Video Interview

MSNBC: Middle East Cease-fire Crumbles

Despite the hope of a cease-fire, the bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas continues. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Gaza and Ezra Klein discusses the situation with the Council on Foreign Relations' Robert Danin.

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Video Interview

KQED Forum: Israel-Gaza Ceasefire Proposed by Egypt

The most recent Israeli offensive in Gaza begins its eighth day on Tuesday, marked by escalating rhetoric and violence on both sides despite international pleas for peace. According to Palestinian officials, over 175 people have been killed in Gaza, most of them civilians. Meanwhile, Israel says close to 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza. Now, Egypt is proposing a ceasefire to start Tuesday morning. Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations discusses on KQED's Forum with Michael Krasny.

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Video Interview

CNN: Can U.S. broker a cease-fire?

As violence escalates between Israel and militants in Gaza, the United States is offering to facilitate a cease-fire. Dr. Robert Danin discusses the likely U.S. approach to the current crisis.

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Video Interview

Haberturk TV: Iraq's Future

Robert Danin discusses events in Iraq with Haburturk TV's Afşin Yurdakul on "Dünyanın İşleri'nde."

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Video Interview

PBS Newshour: Pope Francis Stresses Commonalities in Trip to Middle East

Pope Francis met with King Abdullah in Jordan Saturday on the first day of a three-day tour of the Middle East, stressing the relationships between Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This is only the fourth visit of a pope to the region in fifty years. Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations talks with Hari Sreenivasan about the Pope's balancing act of destinations and words.

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Radio Interview

Reviving Middle East Peace Talks

After years of inaction, Israelis and Palestinians recently agreed to return to the negotiating table. With all so-called "final status" issues -- such as borders, refugee rights, and the status of Jerusalem -- ont he table, many onlookers are guardedly optimistic. Robert Danin discusses with Kojo Nnamdi, host of the "Kojo Nnamdi Show."

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Radio Interview

NPR: Kerry Relaunches Mideast Peace Talks Amid Skepticism

As Israeli and Palestinian officials head to Washington for their first face-to-face peace talks in more than three years, Secretary Kerry's peace efforts are met with skepticism. Robert Danin discusses with NPR's Michele Kelemen on "All Things Considered."

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Radio Interview

Syria's Crackdown Continues

Is Syria's Assad regime deceiving Arab League monitors and using them as cover for continued attacks on political protesters? Robert Danin discusses with KCRW's "To the Point" host Warren Olney.

Video Interview

Charlie Rose Interview

A preview of President Obama's Middle East speech with Rami Khouri of American University of Beirut, Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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Radio Interview

Qaddafi Warns 'Everything Will Burn' if Libya's Protests Continue

Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi is refusing to step down as international condemnation of the violent crackdown on protesters grows. Jeffrey Brown talks about the growing unrest in the North African nation with Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations and Mary-Jane Deeb of the Library of Congress.

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