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Still Think Middle East Peace Doesn't Matter?

Author: Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
November 19, 2012
Foreign Policy


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.

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