Fifty years after the Six-Day War, which marked the beginning of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Middle East remains a region in seemingly perpetual crisis. So it is no surprise that, when addressing the region, politicians, diplomats, and the donor and humanitarian community typically focus on the here and now.
Yet, if we are ever to break the modern Middle East’s cycle of crises, we must not lose sight of the future. And, already, four trends are brewing a new set of problems for the coming decade.
The first trend affects the Levant. The post-Ottoman order that emerged a century ago – an order based on secular Arab nationalism – has already crumbled. The two states that gave weight to this system, Iraq and Syria, have lost their central authority and will remain politically fragmented and socially polarized for at least a generation.
In Lebanon, sectarianism remains the defining characteristic of politics. Jordan has reached its refugee-saturation point, and continued inflows are placing limited resources under ever-greater pressure. As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is no new initiative or circumstance on the political horizon that could break the deadlock.