The new Arab democracies such as Egypt present a different dynamic to help resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, such as the current violence over Gaza. New models for peaceful mediation are needed.
The violence seems the same. For nearly a week, Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired rockets into Israel while Israeli forces have also struck Gaza. But what makes this latest conflict different from past ones is how it might end.
The Arab awakening has created a new possibility of dialogue for the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. Newly democratic Arab states such as Egypt have elected moderate Islamists who, while more anti-Israel in their ideology than their dictatorial predecessors, are being forced to address pressing needs at home. They’re even forced to deal with radical, often violent Islamists who oppose them.
In Egypt, political compromise is now the norm for balancing competing interests. This dynamic of give-and-take, so necessary in a democracy, could prove useful for an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.
The Middle East doesn’t have many models for mediation, especially between Israel and Arabs. Historical and religious animosities run deep. Personal ties are weak. Trust in any negotiation is often missing.
As democracy advances in the region, however, it opens prospects for peace. Dictators who once could use conflict with Israel to hold onto power are disappearing. More Arabs have a voice in the affairs of state, bringing hope of a deeper discussion about the differences between nations. Democracies as a rule, after all, don’t go to war with each other.
As Hillary Rodham Clinton once said about achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace, the hard work doesn’t begin or end at the negotiating table, it “begins in our hearts, in our homes, and in our communities.”