Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has launched two initiatives that would improve its relationship with countries in the Middle East. Whilst there are undoubtedly common interests on which to build, the public perception of NATO in the region leaves much to be desired. The Alliance must tread carefully if it wishes to build lasting relationships in the region.
Following the Gaza crisis, pledges of aid for reconstruction are helping to strengthen the political will to create an effective Palestinian Unity Government. Although many challenges remain unresolved, some encouraging signs have emerged from the early stages of reconciliation talks.
The regional elections in Iraq took place in January in a much hoped for atmosphere of peace and security. The results will begin to show whether Iraq remains a patchwork of conflicting groups, or whether progress is being made to draw the country together and develop a sense of national unity.
However disheartening the current war in Gaza has been, it can become the catalyst for such productive peace negotiations that will lead to the two-state solution. The latest conflict in Gaza has demonstrated to both sides that war can no longer improve their position over each other substantially enough to justify the cost involved.
Hamas has repeatedly stated that it has an army of 20,000 men that are willing to defeat their ‘Zionist enemy’ regardless of the cost, echoing the rhetoric of the second intifada (2000-2005). However, there is a crucial difference between the Hamas of the second intifada and the Hamas we see in Gaza today.