Traditional conflicts and the role of state actors in the mena region
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Traditional Conflicts and the Role of State Actors in the MENA Region. By Christina Zygakis -International Relations Scholar -Youth Sector, Greek Association for Atlantic & European Cooperation. A Focus on the Palestine Question. Latest Developments. Violence.

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Traditional Conflicts and the Role of State Actors in the MENA Region

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Traditional Conflicts and the Role of State Actors in the MENA Region

By Christina Zygakis

-International Relations Scholar

-Youth Sector, Greek Association for Atlantic & European Cooperation

A Focus on the Palestine Question

Latest Developments


  • 1 June 2012: Gunfight on Gaza border Death of 1 Palestinian militant

  • 18 June 2012: Cross-border attack from Egypt to S. Israel by militants Deaths: 1 Israeli civilian + 3 militants Israeli airstrike against Gaza Rocket launch by Palestinian militant groups into Israel Injury of several Israelis Truce brokered by Egypt


  • 28 June 2012: Assassination of Hamas operative in Damascus

  • 19 July 2012: Suicide bombing against Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria 6 killed

Political Developments

  • 6 June 2012: Order for the construction of 851 new homes in West Bank

  • 8 June 2012: Abbas: Expression of willingness to accept UN non-member state status for Palestine

  • 13 June 2012: Criticism against Netanyahu by Israeli State Comptroller upon the 2010 flotilla incident

  • 21 June 2012: Report backed by UK government finds Israeli treatment towards Palestinian children in breach of Geneva Convention and the UN Convention on Child Rights

Political Developments

  • 25 June 2012: Launch of Putin’s visit to Israel and the West Bank

  • Early July 2012: Al-Jazeera documentary evidencing poisoning of Arafat

  • 10 July 2012: Release of Palestinian footballer Al-Sarsak

  • mid-July 2012: Israeli order to demolish 8 W-B villages to create IDF zone

  • 19 July 2012: Release of PLC Speaker Dweik

Political Developments

  • Egyptian Presidency’s moves towards Palestinians

  • 18 July 2012: Mursi – Abbas talks

  • 19 July 2012: Mursi- Meshaal talks

  • 25 July 2012: Mursi-Hamas PM talks


State Actors in the Palestinian Question

  • Contemporary Palestine Question The epicenter of the general Arab-Israeli conflict

    Numerous states involved


  • Events that shaped Turkey’s contemporary Middle East approach:

  • The end of the Cold War

  • 1990-1991 Gulf War

  • Escalation of the Kurdish issue

  • Erbakan’ s 1996 election as the first Islamist Prime Minister in Turkey’s history Turkey-Arab world & Turkey-Israel relations flourished


  • November 2002: AKP in power

    Changes in Turkish grand strategy in the Middle East


    -No need for a strategy aligned with the US / EU

    -Soft Power

    -”Zero problems with neighbours”


  • AKP decision not to align with EU / US in the Middle East

    Constant deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations since 2002

    Palestine Question at the centre


  • Good relations with Hamas


  • Events

    - 2006: Turkey’s invitation to Hamas & Fatah for talks in Ankara Further complication of the Palestine Question

    - 2006: War in Lebanon Turkish criticism upon Israel’s “brutal operations”, systematic use of aggressive rhetoric by Turkish politicians, wide coverage of civilian targets on the media. Absolute anti-Israeli position throughout the crisis.

    Anti-Semitism in Turkey against Israel


  • 2007: Turkey brokers Syria-Israel negotiations

    Failure to reach agreement upon the Golan Heights Question - Israel-Turkey relations too deteriorated already

    Israeli doubts upon Turkey’s impartiality

  • 2009: Davos World Economic Forum: warm episode between Erdogan-Peres


  • 2009: Turkish popular TV show shows Israeli soldiers shooting children

  • 2009: Exclusion of Israel from Turkish joint military aerial exercise

  • 2010: Danny Ayalon’s televised humiliation towards the Turkish Ambassador to Israel


  • 2010: Flotilla attack

  • Withdrawal of Turkish Ambassador

  • Demand for apology by Erdogan vs. Refusal by Israel

  • Denial of access to the Turkish airspace to Israeli military aircraft

  • AKP very popular at home

  • Elevation of Turkey’s image in the Arab World



  • Rise of Turkish nationalism against Israel

  • Voices of nationalist groups for embargo on all Israeli products

  • Decline of Israel-Turkey trade



Doubt upon Turkey’s suitability as mediator for the Middle East


  • Active participation in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and 1967 Six Day War

  • 1979: Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel. Agreements:

    -“Framework for Peace in the Middle East”

    -“Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel”


“Framework for Peace in the Middle East”


  • Part 1: “West Bank and Gaza”

  • Full autonomy for the Gaza strip and the West Bank within 5 years

  • Withdrawal of Israeli forces from the autonomous territories


  • Part 2: “Egypt-Israel”

  • Peaceful settlement of bilateral disputes & in accordance with Article 33 of the UN Charter

  • In-good-faith negotiation of a peace treaty within 3 months within the “Framework” terms – Invitation to other states to similar acts simultaneously for general regional peace


  • Part 3: “Associated Principles”

  • Full recognition

  • Abolishment of economic boycotts

  • Guarantee of protection by the law for each other’s citizens

    - UNSC supervision of the peace treaties


“Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel”


  • Mostly about the future of Sinai peninsula

  • Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from Sinai and evacuation of the Israeli 4,500 civilian inhabitants

  • Return of Sinai to Egyptian sovereignty for normal diplomatic relations

  • Return to Egypt of the Abu-Rudeis oil fields

  • Egyptian guarantee for free passage through Suez Canal and other waterways


  • Establishment of UN forces in Sinai and Sharm el-Sheikh

  • Restrictions on Israeli and Egyptian armed forces

  • Construction of Sinai-Jordan highway with free passage through Egypt


  • Successful mediator and trustful for both Israel and the Palestinians


  • Consideration of Israel as enemy by Egypt unofficially


  • Arab Spring

    -Islamists in power

    Signs of grand strategy swift towards Palestinian territories

    - Request for review of Peace Treaty - Israeli concern (due to the ideological proximity with Hamas)



  • Interesting developments and prospects in Egypt’s grand strategy in the Middle East

  • A catalytic role for Egypt maybe?


  • 1970: PLO’s expulsion from Jordan & abolishment of Palestinian organizations’ autonomy


    Dramatic number of dead (mostly Palestinians)



  • Armed conflict

    Expulsion of PLO and Palestinian fighters to Lebanon


  • 1981: Settlement of missiles in Lebanese territory by Syria & PLO Resettlement of PLO to Lebanon and PLO raids into Israel from S. Lebanon

  • 1982: Israeli invasion into Lebanon PLO withdrawal


  • 1983: Israel-Lebanon ceasefire agreement


  • 1984: Syrian sabotage against it


  • 1985: Withdrawal of Israeli forces to 15km inside S. Lebanon

    Continuance of clashes in a lower scale

    Fewer casualties


  • 1996: Israeli attack against Hezbollah in Lebanon

    Israel-Lebanon-Syria agreement through US mediation


The 2006 War in Lebanon


  • 2006: Hezbollah cross-border ride against Israel

    Ceasefire agreement

  • Establishment of buffer zone in S. Lebanon

  • Deployment of Lebanese armed forces up to Litani river

  • Withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters from the borders

  • Return of the occupied Lebanese areas to the UN peacekeepers by Israel


  • Nowadays

  • Almost no relations between Israel-Lebanon

  • Syria’s domination over Lebanon’s politics is blamed by Israel


  • Also part of the general offensive against Israel – Participation in attacks

  • Dispute upon Golan Heights

  • Enemy relations until today

  • Characterized by Israel as “part of the axis of evil”

  • Accused of supporting terrorism


Conciliation efforts


  • Always mediated by the US

  • After Madrid Conference: Launch of negotiations in Washington on the basis of the Madrid formula. Focus on Security arrangements

  • December 1994 & June 1995: Meeting of Israeli & Syrian Chiefs-of-Staff in Washington


  • 1995: Syrian willingness for negotiations resume without preconditions

  • December 1995 & January 1996: 2 rounds of negotiations


  • 1999: Assad, Mubarak & Clinton express initiative for resumption of 1996 negotiations

  • 2000: Resumption of negotiations in the US


  • Enemies since 1948

  • Participation in 1948 war, 1967 Six Day War & 1973 Yom Kippur War along with Egypt and Syria

  • 1981: Israeli attack against the Iraqi nuclear reactor

  • 1991: Gulf War: Iraqi missile launch into Israel vs. no response by Israel

  • Today: Low presence on the scenes of the Arab-Israeli conflict/Palestinian Question, more focus on domestic reforms and civil strife


  • In the framework of the general Arab-Israeli conflict

  • 1993: “Israeli-Jordanian Common Agenda”


  • Washington, 1994: 1st Hussein-Rabin public meeting

  • “The Washington Declaration”

  • Termination of Israel-Jordan belligerency

  • Agreement to seek peace based on UN Resolutions 242 & 338

  • Israeli respect towards the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom over Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem


  • 26 October 1994: Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace

  • Boundary definition

  • Security

  • Water

  • Freedom of Passage

  • Places of Historical and Religious Significance

  • Refugees and Displaced Persons


  • Enemies with Israel

  • Alleged to support Hamas and other groups

  • Expansion of financial support to Palestine since the rise of Hamas to power

  • Contribution to wages of civil servants and security forces

  • Construction of camps

  • Compensations for Palestine families


  • Considered by Hamas leadership as “strategic depth for the Palestinians”

  • Association of Iranian nuclear programme with the Palestine Question

  • Israel does not want independence for Palestinians as long as Iran remains nuclear

  • Iranian programme might indeed increase suffering for the Palestinians

United States

  • Active involvement with mediation

  • Member of the “Quartet”

  • Involved as mediator in most major negotiations upon the Arab-Israeli conflict in overall

  • Massive financial/development/military support for the region

  • Bush administration Obvious discrimination in favour of Israel Israel unsure about next administration Attempt to resolve its dispute with Hamas while Bush was still in power

United States

  • December 2008: Hamas’ refusal to renew ceasefire

    Air strike by Israel against Hamas targets – Provocative tolerance by US administration

    a) 1,200 civilian deaths

    b) Destruction of Gaza infrastructure

United States

  • 2008: Obama’s candidacy period

  • Expression of unease with Israel’s approach towards the Palestinian issues

  • Disagreement with Ayalon: Perception that Obama was “not entirely forthright” regarding Israel during their 2 meetings

  • Warm meetings with Israeli lobbies


    Expression of his disapproval and willingness to speak with Hamas

United States

  • January 2009: Obama inauguration

  • Shift in US policy

  • Palestine Question at the top of the agenda

  • Cairo, 2009: Speech accusing Israel upon settlements

    Sign of willingness for cooperation with Arabs for resolution

United States

  • Tel Aviv, March 2010: Joe Biden visit to Israel

    Israeli announcement about 1,600 new homes in E. Jerusalem

United States

United States

  • Division in Obama’s team:

  • Officials believing that Israel is harmful and “a burden” in US Middle East grand strategy


  • Officials stressing the importance of US-Israel alignment, which they believe hinders Iran’s nuclear ambitions


  • 1922: Support to Palestine Arabs by the Soviet administration

  • Soviet unwilling recognition of Israel

  • 1944-1948: Pro-Zionist policy


    Israeli alliance with the West

    USSR opposition to Zionism & consolidation with the Arabs


  • 1967 Six Day War More favorable Soviet attitude towards PLO

  • 1970’s: Decline of Soviet influence in Egypt

    Soviet supplies of training, weapons and funding to Palestinian militants through KGB

  • 1978: Soviet recognition of PLO as the only legitimate authority in Palestine


  • 1985: Mikhail Gorbachev in power

    Changes in the Soviet Grand Strategy

  • Support to reconciliation in the Third World and Middle East – Unsuccessful attempt to persuade Arafat to recognize Israel

  • 18 November 1988: Soviet recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine & establishment of diplomatic relations




  • 1990’s: USSR collapse

    Improvement in Russian-Israel relations

  • Support of PLO parts to Iraq during the Gulf War

    Eventual decrease in relations with PLO


    Relations remained




  • Favorable attitude towards Hamas

  • 2008-2009 War: Russian massive aid deployment and heavy condemnation of Israeli invasion

  • Support towards the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state

  • Member of the “Quartet”

  • Important actor in the Middle East Peace Process


General Conclusions

  • Palestine Question Involvement of many states

  • No matter the results, there have been conciliation efforts by all sides

  • States mostly pay the bill for the damage that armed groups cause

  • Signs of change in terms of resolution prospects because of the Arab Spring

  • Partiality hinders resolution


  • Altunisik, M.B., 2008. The Possibilities and Limits of Turkey’s Soft Power in the Middle East. Insight Turkey, 10(2), pp.41–54.

  • Apostolidou, A., 2010. The Implications of a Nuclear Iran for the Palestinian Issue. , pp.6–8.

  • Bein-Meir, A., 2009. Israel and the Arab Peace Initiative. Journal of Peace, Conflict and Development, (14), pp.1–47. Available at: 14 Article 18 revised copy with reviewer’s comments 1.pdf.

  • Davutoglu, A., 2008. Turkey ’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007. Insight Turkey, 10(1), pp.77–96.

  • Grigoriadis, I., 2010. Matching Ambitions with Realities : Turkish Foreign Policy in the Middle East. , (14).

  • Liakounakou, A., 2010. Egyptian Tales of Diplomacy. , pp.19–21.

  • Malley, R., 2010. Flotilla Attack the Deadly Symptom of a Failed Policy. Available at: the-deadly-symptom-of-a-failed-policy.aspx.

  • Merika, A., 2010. How Are Economic Relations Between Israel and Turkey Shaping Up? , pp.24–26.

  • Uknown, Guide to the Mideeast Peace Process. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel. Available at: [Accessed July 22, 2012a].

  • Uknown, Trilateral Statement on the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David. Available at: Trilateral Statement on the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David - 25-Jul-2000 [Accessed July 25, 2012b].

  • Unknown, 2012. Crisis Watch, no.107 (1 July 2012), Brussels. Available at: [Accessed July 25, 1012]

  • Unknown, 2012. Crisis Watch, no.107 (1 August 2012), Brussels: Available at [Accessed August 1, 2012]

  • Unknown, Guide to the Mideeast Peace Process. Available at: process/guide to the peace process/ [Accessed July 25, 2012a].

  • Unknown, Policies (translated from Arabic into English). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jordan. Available at: [Accessed July 21, 2012b].

  • Unknown, 2011. Russia Vows to Support UN Membership Bid. The Telegraph, 21 September 2011. Available at: [Accessed July 26, 2012].

  • Unknown, 2007. Thirteen Years of Peace Between Israel and Jordan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel. Available at: [Accessed July 22, 2012].

  • Upsala University, Israel. Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) Encyclopedia. Available at: [Accessed July 21, 2012].

  • Zalzberg, O., 2012. Qui craint une révision du traité de paix entre Israël et l’Égypte ? Le Figaro. Availableat:


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