Will Arabs turn out for Gaza?

Will Arabs turn out for Gaza?

Lynch has this right:

Morsi has demonstrated his preference to pursue a pragmatic foreign policy here, offering some sympathetic rhetoric and a visit from his relatively anonymous Prime Minister but thus far avoiding dramatic gestures such as opening the border with Gaza or throwing Camp David on the table.  But as much as Morsi values solidifying relations with the U.S. and the international community, and is constrained by the status quo orientation of the Egyptian military and foreign policy apparatus, he may also see real opportunities to gain domestic popularity and assert Egyptian regional leadership.  Morsi's conversations with Erdogan may be implictly focused as much on coordinating to avoid a bidding war over Gaza which pushes both countries towards overly risky moves.  But it is not clear that such a stance can be maintained if the tempo of protests and the human toll of the war escalates.  

The coming days will, among many other things, offer some of the first real evidence about the strategic effects of the Arab uprisings.  It is important to recognize how limited the response of the Arab public and leaders has been thus far.  But it's also important to recognize how quickly this could change, and how unsurprising this would be should it happen.  The Arab uprisings have introduced far greater unpredictability and complexity into everyone's calculations, raising the potential payoff to dramatic political gestures and decreasing the confidence of rulers that they can safely ignore public demands.   All of those ready to confidently dismiss the possibility of such rapid developments should go back first to read what they wrote about Tunisia in December 2010, Egypt in January 2011, or Syria in February 2011.  All the more reason for all parties to push hard for a ceasefire now, so that it isn't put to a test.  

So far Morsi has handled this well: he has done enough in terms of domestic opinion and perhaps even more importantly the Brotherhood base. His inner circle feel content that they calibrated their reaction correctly. But that's today. If this continues, it may be that Morsi will be constrained by US threats and other considerations, for now, and take a humiliation that Netanyahu may be interested in giving him. But even if things don't change immediately, it will have set in motion the preparations for a strategy to act differently next time.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.