Publications - Articles

Religion and politics in Israel

The Caravan (Hoover Institution, issue 1820), Thursday, December 6, 2018

A complex relationship between religion and politics is inherent in Israel’s character as a Jewish state. The term Jewish denotes both a religion and an ethnicity, and, for the past seventy years, Israel’s leaders have had to deal with a host of issues regarding religion’s role in the life and politics of the Jewish state .

Israel and the Arab World

The Oxford Handbook of Israeli Politics and Society

Edited by Reuven Y. Hazan, Alan Dowty, Menachem Hofnung, and Gideon Rahat

Subject: Political Science, Regional Studies, International Relations Online Publication Date: Nov 2018 DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190675585.013.28


This chapter traces and analyzes the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict from its early days to the present. What began as a Jewish-Arab conflict in and over Palestine developed in 1948 into a larger conflict between Israel and the Arab world. The conflict festered in the 1950s and culminated in the war of June 1967. That war had two major contradictory results. First, it provided Israel with bargaining chips for negotiating peace with Arab countries that lost territory in the Six-Day War. Most significantly, this led to the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in 1979. But second, it also encumbered Israel with the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the lingering control of a large Palestinian population. To a great extent the larger Arab-Israeli conflict was telescoped into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its present form. In recent years two other contradictory developments have been shaping the Israeli-Arab landscape. The return of Iran and Turkey into the Middle Eastern arena has added an important Islamic dimension to the conflict. But Iran’s quest for regional hegemony and the exacerbation of Sunni-Shiite tensions in the Middle East have had a moderating effect on the attitude of the Sunni Arab states toward Israel.

The Rabin Assassination as a Turning Point in Israel’s History

Israel Studies, vol. 23, no. 3 (Fall 2018), pp. 25-29.


The assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995, clearly was a major turning point in Israel’s history. During the previous decades, the Jewish community in Palestine and the State of Israel had witnessed several significant cases of domestic political violence but the assassination of an incumbent Prime Minister by a fellow Jew was the most severe case of such violence. Yet, the event’s significance lies well beyond this fact. It’s impact on Israel’s history lies in two different but interrelated domains.

The struggle for Syria, Chapter Two

The Brookings Institution, February 20, 2018

In 1965, the British writer Patrick Seale published his classic “The Struggle for Syria: 1945-1958.” His history of the Syrian Republic’s first 13 years depicted a fragile, weak state, torn by domestic conflicts and buffeted by more powerful regional and international actors. Seale argued that Syria was the prize that these external actors were seeking in order to establish hegemony in the core area of the Middle East. Today, Syria is facing a very similar situation, seven years after what began as a peaceful uprising transformed into a vicious civil war with a fierce competition between regional and international actors over Syria’s future. And as the internal dimension seems to be abating after the capture of Aleppo in late 2016, the regional and international conflicts have been exacerbated.

Trump’s Early Steps in the Middle East

Published in Horizons, issue no. 9, Austomn 2017

THE WORLD is obsessed with Donald Trump: his persona, his style, the policies he has promised to adopt, and those he has actually begun to implement—but also, increasingly, the prospects of his impeachment. Naturally, Americans are primarily interested in the domestic significance and implications of Trump’s presidency, whereas people around the globe are more interested in his foreign policy. Both remain puzzled by contradictory trends and developments, by mixed signals, by his proclivity to change his mind and make decisions on the spur of the moment, and by the dysfunctions of his administration.

The Syrian crisis: A reckoning and a road map

Published in Markaz, the Brookings Institute, September 12, 2017

The tide in the Syrian civil war has clearly shifted. After capturing Aleppo in late 2016, Bashar Assad’s regime—with much help from its Russian and Iranian patrons—is capturing other parts of the country from both ISIS and other opposition groups. Most of the international community seems to have accepted at least a partial victory by Assad as a fait accompli.

In Memoriam: Sadiq Jalal al-ʿAzm, 1934–2016

Published in: Bustan: The Middle East Book Review, Vol. 8, No. 1 (2017), pp. 104-109

Bustan’s commitment to scholarly review in the fields of Middle East and Islamic studies makes it important to stop and reflect on the passing of important scholars and intellectuals who have shaped these ever-broadening fields over the past few decades. The following short essay about Sadiq al-ʿAzm was written by Professor Itamar Rabinovich—one of Bustan’s founders and editors, and a historian of modern Syrian history.


Egypt resumes a leadership role

The Times of Israel, August 21, 2017

One of the important byproducts of the recent turn of events in the Syrian crisis has been the role taken by Egypt. For decades Egypt had been the principal actor in inter-Arab relations. It lost that role several years ago due to the convulsions of domestic Egyptian politics and to the decline of Egypt’s weight and impact owing to the rise of Iran and Turkey in Middle Eastern regional politics, and to the increased influence of the rich Arab states in the Gulf.

Theater and Politics in Oslo

Jewish Review of Books, Summer 2017

In November 1995, the Dayton Agreement was signed, ending the war in Bosnia. This major achievement of American diplomacy was made possible by effective geopolitics and the diplomatic skills of America’s chief negotiator, the late Richard Holbrooke. It put a stop not only to armed conflict, but to civilian massacres and ethnic cleansing. Nonetheless, there is no award-winning Broadway show called Dayton, nor is there likely to be one. There is, however, Oslo. J. T. Rogers’s play dramatizes the negotiations that led to the far-less successful first Oslo Accord, which was signed by Israel’s foreign minister, Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian leader Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) in Norway, and sealed shortly thereafter in the famous Clinton-facilitated handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993.

Syria and the Six-Day War: A 50-years perspective

Markaz, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

From 1963 to 1967, the radicalization of Syrian politics and the frailty of the Syrian state played a major role in producing the Middle Eastern crisis of May 1967 and in pushing the region into the Six-Day War in early June that year. Since March 2011, the frailty of the Syrian state has resulted in a civil war that has become the single most important issue in the Middle East. This is the thread that connects the events of the mid 1960s to the current Syrian crisis.