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Leadership Guide to the Middle East Crisis

The Middle East, once again, finds itself gripped by military crisis. What are the leadership issues here? Is resorting to violence a short-term solution with negative long-term consequences? Are leaders on both sides using military action to win support among their own populations? Is this crisis really about a lack of leadership? Bad leadership? Unpopular but necessary leadership?

We'll leave it to you readers to answer those questions.To help our thinking, here's a quick reading guide to the pivotal personalities and political forces shaping the current crisis.

On the Israeli side:

Ha'aretz writes about the different and sometimes conflicting leadership styles of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Reuters reports on how the Gaza offensive may boost Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's chances for beating Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel's upcoming Feb. 10 election.

Newsweek's John Barry discusses why the Israeli leadership, and Prime Minister Olmert in particular, may be "poor judges" of the long-term consequences of their Gaza gamble.

On the Palestinian side:

The Council on Foreign Relations profiles Khaled Meshal, the current leader of Hamas (currently living in exile in Syria) and offers an overall look at the group's leadership.

Hamas took control of Gaza in June, 2007, which lead Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to appoint Salam Fayyad, an economist who formerly worked at the World Bank, as prime minister of the emergency Palestinian government.

Regional Forces:

Egypt's government, led by Hosni Mubarak, has opposed Hamas -- at points blocking Palestinians fleeing Israeli raids from entering the country -- but must walk a fine line, as popular sentiment in Egypt runs in favor of Hamas, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Iran's leadership, meanwhile, seeks to gain support among Sunni Arab Muslims in the region by taking up the anti-Israel mantle, according to an analysis from Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The new violence has also preempted chances for "indirect peace talks" between Israel and the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, according to Reuters.

By Andrea Useem  |  December 29, 2008; 1:46 PM ET  | Category:  Foreign Affairs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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A military crisis/war is between two equal military powers. I would not label the current crisis as milirary as Israel has surpassed the whole region in its armed ability. The real dilemma in this situation is the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land for 61 years now. Politicians and analysts tend to forget the occupation; the land grab and the Israeli unwillingness to a peaceful existence. It is about time to listen to real people on the ground; to read independent sources of information and not rely on Haaretz or the Jerusalem Post! Analysis needs to be objective and not lopsided. It is about time to attain peace in an equitable basis. Drop the Israeli lobby in the States and demand an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine!

Posted by: RulaDajani | January 13, 2009 4:17 PM

What a strange essay; aren’t there any human values, norms, international legality,….? Only leaders and official positions? We are told that it is a game that should be settled between official players, the unpopular leaders? How about moral claims, right and wrong? Ethnic cleansing, refugees? Occupation, asymmetrical power? Thought that after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan official America might have learnt something about people’s right, but no… the same old official discourse!

Posted by: as33074 | January 10, 2009 1:40 PM

Stop the settlements now? For what good reason? The wise thing to do is save one of the few reasons the Arabs have to negotiate anything for the negotiations. Why give up that before a negotiation? It makes no sense to give up so much for nothing. Only those who want to destroy Israel will ask for that. Most Arabs think population change will win for them - all they need to do is wait. Settlements give them a reason to have peace now.

Posted by: gary4books | December 30, 2008 3:51 PM

I don't think that Obama will go back to the position of the first George Bush to cut-off aid to Israel unless they stop building settlements and outposts. Since that was the only thing that initially forced Israel to go to the negotiation table, and since Israel broke its previous agreement at Camp David not to erect settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, what assurances do the Palestinians now have that Israel will negotiate in good faith? Arafat renounced violence, imprisoned activists, and recognized Israel. All the while, Israel continued to build more settlements. Arafat was offered a peace treaty that would have exempted all Israelis still living in Jerusalem from being under Palestinian citizenship and law enforcement, and which left the Old City under Israeli control; who could have signed a treaty like that- it was a deal-breaker. For its part, Hamas attacks Israel across the one area that all the governments in the region recognize as an established international border, forcing an Israeli response. The only thing that will solve this is an imposed settlement brokered by the UN and the quartet, which is anethma to the American-Israeli lobby and their Congressional toadies. The best hope is that one side or the other will win a decisive victory and bring this to a close. Other than that, what was it that Texas gubernatorial candidate once said- if you're being raped, you might as well lay back and enjoy it. The Palestinians and American taxpayers are all being raped by Zionist activists who want a maximalist solution with no compromises on their part. Somehow this is not very enjoyable.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | December 30, 2008 1:43 PM

Being a bully with a big stick has not helped the US and will not help Israel. The root of the conflict is the fight for territory. The Israelis have the power to take over and are doing so unlawfully on a daily basis. No one in the world dare criticize such moves for fear of being branded anti-semitic. The Palestinians leadership is ineffective, often corrupt and divided. Ehud Ohlmert is a crook who may be headed for jail for corruption. Yet he has led Israel through two major wars of disproportionality in human history. Yet we are all silent. That would not be the case if the Palestinians had slaughtered 350 Israelis. The 21st century is indeed starting out badly.

Posted by: drne | December 30, 2008 12:54 PM

Nowhere do I see that this is a humanitarian issue, above anything else. The Palestinians have been malnourished or even starved for the past 18 months. How is this form of collective punishment punishing Hamas? They obviously have the means to leave Gaza and get the equipment they need. But punishing the Palestinians by taking away their basic human rights for the wrongdoings of their elected officials: shameful.

Posted by: nadabraintheOriginal | December 30, 2008 12:11 PM


We remember Charles Caleb Colton once wrote: " Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; anything but - live for it."

We would wonder whether or not the root of the Middle East Crisis has been from religion!
Have we ever thought the MDC has not been end until religion ( a specific system of belief, worship, etc.) maybe become creed ( any statement of belief, principles, etc.).

Huy Tử, FR, Boston, MA.

Posted by: huytu-4w_ed | December 30, 2008 11:43 AM

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