Robert Malley is Middle East and North Africa Program Director at the International Crisis Group. He is writing here in his personal capacity. (November 2012)

This Is Not a Revolution

A campaign event for Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, Mansoura, Egypt, April 22, 2012. Morsi was declared the winner of the election on June 24.
Darkness descends upon the Arab world. Waste, death, and destruction attend a fight for a better life. Outsiders compete for influence and settle accounts. The peaceful demonstrations with which this began, the lofty values that inspired them, become distant memories. Elections are festive occasions where political visions are an afterthought. The only consistent program is religious and is stirred by the past. A scramble for power is unleashed, without clear rules, values, or endpoint. It will not stop with regime change or survival. History does not move forward. It slips sideways.

The Arab Counterrevolution

Protesters celebrating Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, Cairo, February 11, 2011
The outcome of the Arab awakening will not be determined by those who launched it. The popular uprisings were broadly welcomed, but they do not neatly fit the social and political makeup of traditional communities often organized along tribal and kinship ties, where religion has a central part and foreign meddling is the norm. The result will be decided by other, more calculating and hard-nosed forces.

Who’s Afraid of the Palestinians?

Without resolving its conflict with the Palestinians, Israel has for the moment resolved its Palestinian problem. Israel’s anxiety may be growing, but what it worries about no longer derives from the Palestinians. If in the eyes of many Arabs, Israel acts as if it were above the law, in the eyes of its own Jewish citizens it is treated as if it were perpetually on probation. The conflict Israelis have come to care about is not with the Palestinians; it is with the rest of the world. The deal that interests Israel is one that would result in a dramatic change in its condition that only non-Palestinian actors can produce.

Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Over?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman, August 20, 2009
Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. —Winston Churchill There’s no success like failure, and … failure’s no success at all.—Bob Dylan The idea of Israeli–Palestinian partition, of a two-state solution, has a singular pedigree. It has been proposed …

Obama and the Middle East

The Obama administration seems prepared to devote considerable diplomatic, economic, and, perhaps, political capital to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The goal, once the ground has been settled, will be to achieve a comprehensive, two-state solution. But would the Israeli and Palestinian people welcome it? Would they see it as ending their conflict or merely opening its next round? What, in short, would a two-state solution actually solve?

The Middle East: What Next?

A Palestinian praying by the ruins of his house, Jabalya, Gaza, January 26, 2009
On the eve of the war in Gaza, Robert Malley and Hussein Agha wrote “How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East” [NYR, January 15], a critical review of US policies in the region during the Clinton and Bush years, and a call for a new approach. On January …

How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh during talks between rival Palestinian factions, Mecca, February 8, 2007
Foreign affairs had no more than a small part in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and the Middle East peace process only a fraction of that. Yet the sorry prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians make a break with past US policy on this matter imperative, regardless of the new …

Into the Lion’s Den

In its final year in office and the first year of its Israeli–Palestinian diplomacy, the Bush administration has introduced the latest and in some respects oddest idea for achieving peace, the shelf agreement. Its logic is straightforward. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas should conclude a final peace …

The Road from Mecca

The idea that negotiations conducted bilaterally between Israelis and Palestinians somehow can produce a final agreement is dead. The world, slowly, is coming to this realization. Its fate was sealed in part because neither side has the ability, on its own, to close the gaps between the positions they have …

A New Middle East

On June 25, members of three militant Palestinian organizations, including the governing Hamas, attacked an Israeli military base, killing two soldiers and seizing a third. On July 12, militants from the Lebanese Hezbollah crossed into Israel, captured two soldiers, and killed three others. When Israeli troops pursued them into Lebanese …

Hamas: The Perils of Power

What explains Hamas’s performance? Most observers argue that the Islamists profited from Fatah’s poor record, its mismanagement, costly internal divisions, and all-around ineptitude. They have a point. Hamas ran on a platform of good government and earned the respect of voters in local districts by displaying greater integrity than its …

The Lost Palestinians

Barring an unforeseen development, Palestinians will vote in their second post-Arafat national elections this summer. Unlike the presidential balloting, in which the election of Abu Mazen was entirely predictable, the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council are clouded in uncertainty. Fatah, the secular, nationalist organization which has thoroughly dominated Palestinian …

The Last Palestinian

Much as his political ascent gave shape to the contemporary Palestinian landscape, Yasser Arafat’s death will fundamentally transform it. Arafat was unique, and uniquely suited to his people’s condition following the 1948 war: defeated, dispossessed, and dispersed, without a state to defend them, a territory to hold them, or a …

Israel and the Arafat Question

Few issues of US foreign policy have been as thoroughly identified with one man as was the “Arab–Israeli peace process” with Dennis Ross. During the four years of the first Bush administration and, even more so, the eight of Clinton’s presidency, Ross virtually was the process, allowed to work independently …

Three Men in a Boat

It is a hot summer day in the Holy Land. Three men are looking out their windows. What do they see? What might they be thinking? < p align=”center”>Sharon As he approaches the twilight of his political career, Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, contemplates his one last remaining task. It …

Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors

Mr. Malley, as Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, was a member of the US peace team and participated in the Camp David summit. Mr. Agha has been involved in Palestinian affairs for more than thirty years and during this period has had an active part in Israeli-Palestinian …