Robert G. Rabil: Arab Uprisings Boost Israel's Enemies

Roundup: Media's Take

Robert G. Rabil served as a chief of emergency for the Red Cross in Lebanon during the country's civil war. He is associate professor of political science and the LLS Distinguished Professor of Current Events at Florida Atlantic University. He is the author of Syria, United States and the War on Terror in the Middle East and most recently Religion, National Identity and Confessional Politics in Lebanon: The Challenge of Islamism.

Arab uprisings have greatly affected the political landscape of the Middle East. Gone is the era when autocratic or totalitarian rulers unilaterally decided their approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. New and surviving political actors are now sensitive to their public's sentiments toward the Palestinian question, which runs deep in the collective consciousness of the Arabs. The Arab uprisings have foregrounded the Palestinian cause in the region’s politics, but it has remained secondary to immediate Arab concerns about the Syrian crisis and its implications for the region. In Washington, this has fed an impression that the fall of the Syrian regime would disrupt the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah-Hamas axis—on Israel, the thinking goes, their hands would be tied.

This Beltway conventional wisdom has serious flaws and implications for U.S. policy making. Broadly speaking, the uprising in Syria has compelled Hamas to begin steering away from Damascus—and by extension Tehran—and turn instead toward Egypt and Jordan. But this development cannot be misconstrued as a collapse or even a severe disruption of the Iranian-led rejectionist axis, which is constantly reinventing and adapting itself to changing conditions in the Middle East.

Hamas’s New Role

There is a growing consensus among Arab political elites, especially Islamists, that, after years of ineffectual negotiations and in a climate where Israelis are anxious about the implications of Arab uprisings for their security, Israel has all but abandoned the concept of the two-state solution in favor of the status quo. Neither Arab regimes nor Islamists can swallow this bitter pill. Nor will they pursue policies inimical to Hamas and favorable to Israel. While Jordan and Saudi Arabia have a national interest in resuming the peace process, the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (and its affiliates in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza) have a superficial interest in resuming the peace process, if only to conceal their immediate strategy—to reduce Egypt's and Jordan's economic and security cooperation with Israel—until the Syrian crisis is over. This strategy was described to me by an influential member of the Muslim Brotherhood....

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