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

The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab–Israeli Peace

by Aaron David Miller

Negotiating Arab–Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East

by Daniel C. Kurtzer and Scott B. Lasensky
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 …