The seven lost years of peace in the Middle East

TEL AVIV — As the war rages on and the civilian casualties mount, those of us living here are often haunted by thoughts of opportunities missed. Before the abductions that touched off this latest conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israel had enjoyed seven long years of largely uninterrupted peace. And Israel squandered it.

It’s been seven years since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip following a brutal civil war with its arch-rival, Fatah. Since then, a combination of poor governance, an Israeli sea blockade and the new Egyptian regime’s unwillingness to open the border with Gaza has forced the self-proclaimed party of Palestinian resistance into a corner. They have few allies and are financially weak — but now they feel that time is on their side. That feeling is the source of the true existential threat to both the peace process and Israel’s survival as a Jewish democratic state.

Former Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon always had a simple rule about war: Never retreat under fire. During the second intifada, Sharon insisted that Israel wouldn’t enter a peace process until Palestinian terror stopped and Israel had seven days of quiet. Sharon’s principle was sound: Any retreat under violent duress was bound to lead to more violence immediately afterward. If the two-state solution is to work — and not degenerate into another bloody frenzy — you need a ‘time-out’, something to separate active war-making and withdrawal.

This is Israel’s current dilemma: It can’t end the occupation or reduce the pace of military operations while Hamas continues firing rockets into its territory. The road to peace starts with the cessation of violence. But peace is more than the absence of war — and the absence of war can’t guarantee peace unless the parties make a concerted effort to build a lasting peace.

Sharon demanded seven days of quiet — Israel got seven years of (relative) quiet. The suicide bombers’ offensive terminated in 2005, but from 2007 onward Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad, the IDF, the Israeli security service, the Palestinian security forces and the separation fence managed to keep the West Bank stable. The number of Israeli casualties from terror attacks, and the number of Palestinian casualties from Israeli fire, declined in the last half-decade to levels Israel hadn’t seen in previous decades. The second intifada ended and the street pressure from the first intifada did not resume.

Until the abduction of the three Israeli youths in Alon Shvut on June 12, no strategic attack had been launched. The bloody attacks on Israeli cities — and even the attacks on the settlements and settlers — had significantly diminished. Israel had enjoyed economic prosperity and a cultural boom since 2007, made possible by quiet borders.

But what did Israel do with those seven quiet years? What peace process did it initiate when it was given a rare, precious break? In Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni’s defense, they both tried to do as much as they could in the first 18 months of the undeclared truce. Since taking office, however, Benjamin Netanyahu has done nothing. He’s made some speeches, issued some moderate declarations and suspended one settlement construction project. But he has made no moves toward exploiting the quiet to pursue a two-state deal.

Netanyahu mishandled the peace. Israel let the seven good years slip through the cracks.

Will Israel be granted an eighth year? Probably not. The current war of attrition has claimed too many lives to end quickly. International calls for a ceasefire are being ignored. When there’s no peace process, escalation follows. Israel has a chance to build seven years of peace into something lasting by negotiating in good faith with Abbas and his unity government. Instead, it took peace for granted. Now, Israelis and Palestinians are paying the price — in blood.

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Israel is taking a deadly gamble in Gaza

Israel has expanded its military operation in Gaza and has begun a ground invasion for the second time in five years. This will be a difficult, dangerous operation — and when the dust settles, it may do nothing to eliminate the threat of rocket attacks on the Israeli civilian population.

Israel didn’t want this war in Gaza. It had hoped to isolate events in the West Bank and Jerusalem from the Gaza front and attempted mediation through Egypt before the official operation began. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite taking heavy criticism from his right flank, has made it clear that his primary goal is to end the fighting as soon as possible. And yet the fighting continues and the number of civilian casualties continues to rise.

The modest, immediate Israeli goal of restoring calm threatens to evolve now into something wider, open-ended and quite deadly. With its ground invasion, Israel likely will aim to cut the Gaza Strip into two or three parts, limiting Hamas’ capabilities while destroying weapon stockpiles. Israel tried to strike at the Hamas tunnel infrastructure by air; now it’s hoping ground troops can do the job. While the Egyptian military has dealt a heavy blow to the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and northern Sinai, Hamas is still trying to dig beneath the Israeli border.

However, an Israeli ground incursion risks far greater casualties on the Israeli side as well as the Palestinian side. In the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, Israel, then led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, entered Gaza in what became, predictably, a gruesome and internationally-condemned operation.

In 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense, led by Netanyahu, Israel — signaling its readiness to enter Gaza — called up very large numbers of reservists but held them back. Notwithstanding criticism from the right and the frustration felt by thousands of reservists over being used in a bluff, Netanyahu chose to be cautious. Netanyahu is Israel’s second longest-serving prime minister (after David Ben-Gurion) but he has only engaged in two relatively small military operations: the air operation in 2012 and the one we’re witnessing now. Despite his warlike talk, Netanyahu is actually a careful, conservative leader — in war as well as in peace. In this current operation, Netanyahu and his cabinet have decided to slightly broaden the military campaign to include a ground operation, rather than scale it down.

Meanwhile, the political leadership of Hamas seems to have been dragged into this conflict by the events that preceded it and by its own militants, who don’t always answer to the political wing. While it continues to fire rockets into Israel, it is now demanding that the Rafah border crossing with Egypt be opened. As part of its 10-year ceasefire offer to the Israelis, Hamas is also demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners who were let go in the Schalit deal (recently re-arrested by the Israeli police over the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli youths), the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings to citizens and goods, and international supervision of the Gazan seaport in place of the current Israeli blockade.

Hamas finds itself in a very difficult situation. Since 2012, Hamas’ fortunes have declined rapidly as a result of the Muslim Brotherhood’s overthrow in Egypt. Moreover, Hamas is financially strapped due to Israel’s naval blockade and the hostility of the new Egyptian regime. Hamas operatives inside Gaza may have felt they had little to lose by joining Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ government. Now they’re fighting a war against a powerful opponent because they lost control of their own cadres.

Given the risks and rewards, Hamas seems to have the most to gain from de-escalation — and the most to lose from a ground war. But both sides should understand that the risks go far beyond the lives of Palestinians and Israelis — that the risks include a wider, regional war. As the July 12 editorial in Lebanon’s Daily Star said, “the firing of rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel Friday should serve as a wake-up call to national leaders … about the sensitivity and volatility of the situation. Those who carried out the act didn’t do so out of a concern with the national interest of Lebanon, or even the interest of the Palestinian people. They were trying to sow further chaos by dragging Lebanon into the conflict raging further south, with little appreciation for the immense difficulties that this country already faces.”

A ground invasion endangers Israel, Gaza and civilians on both sides. More importantly, it risks bringing other countries into the fight — triggering a cascade of events that can’t be reversed. A ceasefire — not a ground invasion — is in Israel’s best interest. Quickly getting back to the negotiating table with Abbas and with his unity government is in its supreme interest.

How Hamas fell into the Arafat trap

The current war of attrition between Hamas and Israel proved one thing to the average citizen of the region beyond all doubt: Hamas is weak. Its claim to be the sole broker of moqawama (resistance) to the Israeli “occupier” is falling on deaf ears.

Hamas’ problem is one of legitimacy — quite like the one Yasser Arafat struggled with in 2000 when he met with Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton in the famous Camp David talks. Everyone knows how that turned out. And while there are different versions as to which side was to blame for the talks’ failure, it’s clear now that Hamas is experiencing what Arafat was going through at the time.

In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Arafat met with President Clinton in an effort to resolve the age-old Arab-Israeli conflict. The idea was to finalize a two-state solution — a progression on the Camp David Accords in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter was able to broker a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.

The negotiations were based on an ‘all or nothing’ approach — nothing was considered agreed and binding until everything was agreed. The proposals were, for the most part, verbal.

In the deal, Arafat was offered over ninety-seven percent of the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, with Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of that state (including the holy place of the Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary), an international presence in place of the Israeli Defense Force in the Jordan Valley — and with the unlimited right of return for Palestinian refugees to their state, but not to Israel. This was nearly everything Arafat had wanted.

However, Arafat faced a political dilemma. His whole raison d’être was to “resist” the “occupier” in order to create a Palestinian state. And he had Hamas — over which he had loose control at the time — breathing down his neck. Should Arafat falter, he knew he’d have civil war with the Islamic militant organization. Had Arafat accepted the Camp David deal, he’d be assassinated … literally or politically. So Arafat chose to reject the deal — because he wanted to be seen by his people (and the diaspora) as a symbol of resistance — and to keep Hamas in its box.

Fast-forward roughly 14 years, and Hamas finds itself in the same unhappy spot that Arafat once occupied. Hamas has been governing Gaza since 2007 with an iron fist. The Gazan economy is suffering immensely, due in large part to poor governance. As a result, other, more extreme factions are beginning to operate and win support within Gaza — including Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) and Islamic Jihad (who are behind some of the recent rocket attacks on Israel). To complicate matters further, Hamas’ has been constantly coping with internal fractures; its political and military wings don’t always see eye to eye.

In 2012, Hamas thought it had found a way out of its misery when the Muslim Brotherhood — Hamas’ parent organization — was elected in Egypt. However, after Abdel Fattah al-Sissi removed Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Morsi from the presidency and succeeded him in power, Hamas’ fortunes declined. The current regime in Cairo despises the Brotherhood and is only slightly inclined to tolerate its Palestinian offshoot. And on a regional level, the states that are friendly to the Muslim Brotherhood — including Qatar and Turkey — now appear to have relinquished their support. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries have taken a harsh stance against the Brotherhood and now seem to be supportive of the new regime in Cairo. Meanwhile, the Egyptian military has gone to great lengths to destroy the networks of tunnels connecting Gaza and Sinai used by Hamas to transport both civilian goods and weapons.

As Hamas finds its options restricted by a hostile Egypt, an Israeli naval blockade and its own poor governance, it also has to face the same awkward situation that pushed Arafat into a corner in 2000. Should Hamas begin legitimizing itself and negotiating with Israel in order to bring about a future Palestinian state, or should it remain the moqawama against the Israeli occupation? Hamas has been tilting back and forth between these two roles since it came to power in 2007, pivoting between unifying with its political opponent — Fatah — and launching rockets from Gaza. However, it seems that Hamas is beginning to realize that governing and helping its people is more important than maintaining its moqawama status.

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy had this to say recently: “(Israel has) coined a new method of diplomacy in the twenty-first century. (Israel doesn’t) meet with (Hamas), (Israel doesn’t) talk to (Hamas), but … each one listens to the other side. Somehow, in the end, an understanding is crafted.”

Reports have emerged that Hamas has offered Israel a 10-year ceasefire. Maybe it’s a deal Israel should pursue. This could be the moment to regain the trust that has been lost and get back to the negotiating table with a Palestinian Authority unifying both Fatah and Hamas. For Israel, the alternatives are far worse.

Riots, not Gaza, are Israel’s real problem

TEL AVIV — The recent events in Israel, the dramatic July 2 killing by (at least) 3 Israeli extremists of a Palestinian teenager — thought to be retaliation for the kidnapping by Hamas and subsequent deaths of three young Israeli students, has led us to this latest escalation between Hamas and Israel again, the first since 2012.

As Benedetta Berti correctly points out, “a mutual desire to show strength has escalated the conflict, and although neither side wants another war, it may already be too late to pull back.” This recent conflict will probably further weaken Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his unity government.

One can hope this recent conflict will come to a quick end and both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, can come back to the negotiating table and finally resolve the two-state solution once and for all. While this recent escalation is going to prove as a tactical error in the long run for both Israel and Hamas, the real issue for Israel were the riots that occurred in Jerusalem and in the north of Israel. There are enough channels to resolve the conflict between Hamas and Israel; however, the same cannot be said about the riots within Israel.

Abu Khdeir’s murder was by far the most brutal example, but there have been dozens of attacks during the past week – including an assault on workers in West Jerusalem hours after the bodies of the three Israelis were found, as hundreds of right-wing Jews held demonstrations in the city, chanting “death to the Arabs.” The streets of Shuafat, Beit Hanina, and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods were eerily quiet on Monday night, with few residents coming out to shop and socialize after Iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast.

The riots are only in East Jerusalem and the north of Israel for the time being. Should they spread to other areas, Israel will have a real dilemma on its hands – as a civil war risks being the result. This is not a fear that is long-term; it is a fear that risks boiling over quickly. The other day, it was reported that groups of local Arab men – mostly unarmed, but a few carrying knives and sticks – have formed impromptu neighborhood-watch groups in East Jerusalem. They were on the lookout for “settlers” also known as ultranationalist Jews accused of Abu Khdeir’s murder.

East Jerusalem, where many Israeli Arabs reside, is very tense but so too is northern Israel.

It seems the streets are quiet now, most probably because of the even-more tense situation in Gaza and the incoming rockets to the south of Israel. It is after this recent flare up between Hamas and Israel, where it might become difficult for Israel and its government. The riots risk spreading to other cities aside from Nazareth in northern Israel where a majority of the Israeli Arabs live (i.e.: Afula, Acre, etc).

A civil war is certainly not in Israel’s interest. If Israeli Arabs’ begin believing they have ‘nothing to lose’ and the violence and unrest spreads beyond East Jerusalem to other parts of Israel, the Israeil government will have a new, more difficult problem on its hands. To simply arrest the protesters is not the solution. Certainly, it is an immediate answer that will quell the violence temporarily, but that is not the answer. The Israeli leadership must listen to what the protesters are saying.

For instance, in East Jerusalem, a citizen was recently quoted as saying, “For 20 years we’ve heard about the peace process, and we got nothing…. We’re treated like fifth-class citizens in this country…. So maybe the only way to take action is to come down in the streets.” This is why it is still in Israel’s key interest to diplomatically resolve the conflict not only with Hamas but also with a unified Palestinian Authority sooner rather than later – at the negotiating table.

If Israel wants a Jewish state along the 1967 borders alongside a Palestinian state (West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza), it would be wise to get back to the negotiating table but, more importantly, observe and act on the voices of the protesters in East Jerusalem and the north of Israel, as none of the alternatives result in a pleasant outcome for the Jewish democratic state.

Best outcome for Syria: Both sides lose

In his latest speech, Bashar al-Assad made it clear that he is unwilling to compromise and is willing to fight until the very end. What isn’t clear is whether he will make widespread use of chemical weapons against his own people.

Assad himself, his government, and nearly all of the country’s military officers come from the Alawites, a formerly-persecuted minority, who fear that this war is a matter of kill-or-be-killed. The Alawites make up about twelve per cent of Syria’s population. A heretical sect in the eyes of orthodox Sunni Muslims, the Alawites lived an isolated existence for centuries as their religion evolved to reflect various folk traditions.

The Alawites don’t have many defenders in the Arab world, partly because of religious differences and partly because of the horrible nature of the Baathist regime they have controlled since the 1960s. It doesn’t help that they’re a pawn of Iranian interests. Thus, the regime’s fall — whenever that might happen — will not be widely mourned in the Arab world outside of Iran and Hezbollah (another Iranian pawn).

The fall of the Assad regime most likely will be widely celebrated in the West — but the prospect of a well-organized Syrian expatriate community forming a government for any length of time would a losing bet. They might have the support of the Obama administration and others but they do not stand a chance of holding power in Syria for any period of time, barring some sort of international occupation.

Thus, it seems that the people who eventually will take power in Syria are the armed men who control the country’s streets, villages and towns right now. They do not speak with one voice; the rebel ‘army’ is really families and communities struggling to protect themselves from the Assad regime.

The so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ has no command of or control over its constituent units. The idea of foreign jihadis — al-Qaeda and its followers — infiltrating the Syrian opposition and coming to power in Damascus is an unrealistic one. There is little evidence that foreign jihadis represent anything more than a small number of those fighting the Assad regime.

Syria does not need foreign jihadis and radical Islamists — it has more than enough of the homegrown variety. This is where people so often miss the nature of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, easily the most coherent political force in Syria’s opposition today. It is an organization stuck in a time warp from 1982, when it lost the last round of Syria’s long civil war, and has been waiting for its chance at revenge.

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is not like its analogues in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan or Morocco. It has not been part of the political process for decades, “tamed” by having to get its hands dirty in the everyday stuff of politics. It has been a capital offense to be a member or give any support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria for three decades. As a result, the organization is secretive and opaque, and it is not clear how much its cadres inside the country interact with its exiled leadership.

Neither Syria nor the region would be well served by a decisive victory by either the Assad regime or by the opposition. Breathless supporters of Syria’s revolution need to be careful what they wish for. The most powerful elements of Syria’s armed opposition almost certainly would be no friends of liberal democracy were they to seize power for themselves.

Consider this: The dissidents who brought down autocratic governments in Egypt and Tunisia — even the political Islamists among them — were far more politically liberal than their counterparts in Syria. And look at those countries now.

What, then? It might not be fashionable to say so, but a negotiated outcome remains the best option to end the killing and prevent the worst elements from winning Syria. An outright opposition victory likely would produce a momentary air of euphoria before the steep decline toward autocracy and darkness began.

If the rebels do overthrow the Assad regime, the Obama administration might go down in history as having let it happen.

The Middle East: America wants out

Who won the recent shooting war between Israel and Hamas? The answer is irrelevant. Personally, I think Israel won the war because it was able to defend itself with the Iron Dome, suffering minimal casualties. But the real story of this war is America’s shift in foreign policy.

As the conflict escalated to the point where 75,000 Israeli reservists were waiting to be called up, America and the rest of the international community defended Israel’s right to protect itself but warned that a ground operation would be ill-advised. Meanwhile, the players were talking about a ceasefire; this time, however, the United States took a back seat to Egypt. Having affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense and after urging restraint on both sides, President Barack Obama handed matters over to his State Department, which worked largely behind the scenes.

After that, it was a regional show. President Mohammed Morsi, whose allies in the Muslim Brotherhood are closely linked to Hamas, made — along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — the necessary moves to halt the escalation of hostilities. Only after reports of a ceasefire emerged did Obama send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Cairo to help conclude the final deal.

If a ceasefire holds, this can be considered a first in the Middle East. At least, it offers the clearest signal yet of Obama’s intentions toward the region during his second term. On Israel, Obama has learned that the region’s leaders have to actively seek their own paths out of the crises now spreading across the region — the U.S. can’t do it for them. The time when Israel could wait for the U.S. to force the first moves in peace processes is over.

That might be great news to those on the Israeli right who have never sought peace with the Palestinians, nor tolerated the idea of sacrificing land to the two-state solution. It might also suit the purposes of the region’s many sub-state actors, emboldened by what appears to be a lack of U.S. sanctions on their actions against American allies in the region (Israel, Turkey and the Gulf monarchies) or in partnership with them, as with the Syrian opposition groups armed directly or indirectly by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Up to now, it’s been standard practice for many Middle Eastern players to blame the U.S. and Israel for their problems, while expecting the Americans to be present in the region to deal with the fallout. Even opponents of the U.S., such as Iran, probably expected more of a response from Washington to their public declarations and regional maneuvering.

The International Energy Agency’s annual outlook report on energy futures predicts the U.S. can be producing more oil than Saudi Arabia by 2017, offering Obama the quick exit from the Middle East he’s looking for.

But if Israel and the Palestinians are to be left to their own fates, Europe will have to take a hand. For as long as anyone can remember, the Europeans have been bankrolling the declining Palestinian Authority. The EU has since lost its justification for its annual one billion euros in subsidies, which they claim is leverage to help the Palestinians reach a negotiated deal with Israel. The recent vote at the UN that gave the Palestinians non-member observer status also gave the peace process another twist; the belief now is that Israel will not voluntarily give them the statehood they are seeking.

Whatever avenue the Israelis and the Palestinians take to resolve their issues, it seems the Americans will only be there to add their stamp of approval — they won’t go through the process of working out differences. The United States has problems enough of its own.

America and the world: what now, Mr. President?

President Barack Obama has got his second term. He has a lot of work to do on the economic file and it won’t be easy, given the political polarization of the United States and its Congress. Obama can, however, make a difference in foreign policy — specifically in the Middle East, a region that is seeing rapid political change.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions may make the Middle East peace process seem a distant priority for the U.S. (much to the delight of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), but Obama needs to chart a new path for the peace process — now, not later.

How should the United States deal with Iran?

In a word, diplomatically. The U.S. should gradually adjust itself to an Iran that is nuclear-capable — but not nuclear-armed. Iran will not cross any “red lines” in the next four years — it isn’t going to try to fabricate or test a nuclear weapon or start enriching uranium to 90 per cent — because it knows this is the one irrevocable step that might trigger a U.S. attack.

Absent such a move by Iran, neither Israel nor the United States will conduct a preventive strike. Israel doesn’t have the capability to conduct a strategically meaningful attack, and most of the American national security establishment thinks an attack would be foolish. We can’t rule out the possibility of war, of course — but we can hope that cooler heads will prevail, given the consequences.

How should the United States approach the Arab Revolution?

With patience. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have overthrown their dictators and are now going through the gruesome process of reforming. Citizens of other Arab countries have seen this and want in as well. A forceful, unilateral western approach isn’t going to work here.

The Arab world is in the midst of vast and unpredictable upheaval, which is likely to produce governments that are more receptive to popular opinion than their predecessors. They may not be perfect democracies, but dictators will fear the power of public opinion a lot more than their predecessors did. But this process will take time — years, not months.

As we’ve already seen in Libya and Syria, these events raise frustrating national security questions for the United States. Are these events an opportunity to diminish Iran’s influence, strike a blow for democracy and further marginalize anti-American forces? Or is the collapse of the old order undermining traditional U.S. allegiances and allowing anti-American sentiment (and Islamic extremism) a greater voice in the region’s politics? What if Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the Kurds get drawn into the whirlpool?

Obama doesn’t have a lot of leverage over these events, and not many appealing policy options except to analyze all the countries in the region, look at the trends and begin to build relationships with likely leaders — even if it leaves a sour taste in his mouth.

What should the United States do for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?

Benjamin Netanyahu will most likely take office again following the January 2013 elections. Obama may have to face up to the fact that there isn’t going to be a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, and begin to think seriously about what an alternative U.S. policy should look like. Maybe it’s a three-state solution, comprising Israel, West Bank and Gaza, or something similar.

In fact, Obama has learned already that pursuing the two-state solution is very hard and may no longer be realistic. The Israeli right has no interest in it, the Palestinians are too weak and divided to put meaningful pressure on them, and the United States is too compromised to be an effective mediator. The two-state solution has become a fig leaf for politicians to hide behind, while realities on the ground make it less and less likely by the day.

Obama needs to think about this now. If he doesn’t, he’ll be stuck answering some awkward questions. What outcome should a liberal democracy like the United States favor if “two states for two peoples” is impossible? Does it abandon its commitment to “one person, one vote” and endorse permanent apartheid? Does it abandon its deep commitment to a Jewish state and support a one-state democracy for all the inhabitants of Israel/Palestine? Or does it quietly encourage ethnic cleansing? Unless the United States gets ahead of this debate, these questions will be addressed without its input — and it won’t like the answers much.

How can Canada learn from this?

Canada is in an advantageous position regarding the Middle East and the U.S.: it has different interests and it can learn from our southern neighbour’s mistakes. If Canada wants to put itself in a strong diplomatic position in the region, it should look at each country individually and meticulously examine the trends: who is in a power position, who is fading? In Jordan, for example, King Abdullah is unpopular — but the army remains loyal to him and the Muslim Brotherhood is not strong enough to challenge him. While the Jordanian government won’t fall in the next little while, now is time to start a dialogue with the Brotherhood, perhaps with the king’s half-brother Hamzah, who is very popular in Jordan.

Canada has an opening here to build relationships with the movements likely either to form governments or act as opposition blocs in these nations. Where a non-elected regime is isolated and weak, Canada should cut official ties and start looking for someone else to talk to. If we fail in this, we’ll end up in a corner with the United States and other western allies.

Foreign Policy Expert