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Boston College Expert: Middle East Peace

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Peter Krause

Peter Krause
Assistant Professor of Political Science
office: 617.552.0759
cell: 617-595-8690
Faculty website


Krause's research and writing focuses on international security, Middle East politics, non-state violence, and national movements. Krause has conducted extensive fieldwork throughout the Middle East over the past five years and has published articles on the effectiveness of non-state violence, U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war, the politics of division within the Palestinian national movement, the war of ideas in the Middle East, and a reassessment of U.S. operations at Tora Bora in 2001. Among his publications: “Many Roads to Palestine? The Potential and Peril of Multiple Strategies within a Divided Palestinian National Movement (Middle East Brief, March 2012); The Political Effectiveness of Non-State Violence: A Two-Level Framework to Transform a Deceptive Debate," (Security Studies, Summer 2013); and “Intervention in Syria: Reconciling Moral Premises and Realistic Outcomes,” (with Eva Bellin, Middle East Brief, June 2012). Krause is currently completing his book manuscript on the political effectiveness of national movements, as well as articles on the structure of national movements and the threat of internal strife by non-state actors for political gain. He has conducted television interviews with CNN, MSNBC, Fox-Boston, CBS-Boston, NBC-Boston, ABC-Boston, NECN, and Al-Jazeera English, as well as with radio and print media

APRIL 28, 2014

It’s been the hope of nearly every administration since Nixon: finding peace in the Mideast. It’s been a main goal of the Obama administration as well to break the logjam between the Israelis and Palestinians, but come tomorrow, the firm deadline set by the United States for a peace deal will pass - and yet again failure will be the result. 

If we’re looking at this from the perspective that peace talks should lead to peace, certainly to a deal, then this is a surprising and disappointing outcome,” says Boston College Political Science Assistant Professor Peter Krause, Ph.D. “Unfortunately, if you look at the history of these negotiations and other ones before it, this is actually more the status quo.” 

The major development this past week was the announcement that Fatah and Hamas have reached a “unity” deal to bring together the two strongest Palestinian parties, which was quickly denounced by the Israelis and called “unhelpful” by the Obama administration. To understand the causes, significance, and potential effects of such an agreement for the peace process, one must understand the dynamics of internal Palestinian politics, says Krause, who has conducted research in the region for many years.

“What many observers miss is that this ‘unity’ deal represents a beginning to negotiations, rather than an end,” says Dr. Krause. “In that sense it echoes the Oslo Accords themselves, which started with recognition and a stated desire to negotiate, rather than a comprehensive agreement on any of the major disputed issues. 

“Israel has refused to negotiate openly with Hamas on political matters until Hamas takes the steps that Fatah itself took two decades ago—recognizing Israel and pre-existing agreements, and declaring an end to the use of terrorism. At the same time, the U.S. and other international donors may pull funding to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority if the unity agreement with Hamas goes forward.” 

Given these drawbacks, why would Abbas and Fatah sign such an agreement with Hamas in the first place? The answer, Krause says, lies in the difficult position where both major Palestinian parties now find themselves.

“Abbas has staked much of his reputation on negotiations with Israel, and the longer they endure without major concessions, the more delegitimized he becomes in the eyes of his people, who themselves have called for Palestinian unity for years,” says Krause, whose publications include “Many Roads to Palestine? The Potential and Peril of Multiple Strategies within a Divided Palestinian National Movement”; “The Political Effectiveness of Non-State Violence: A Two-Level Framework to Transform a Deceptive Debate”; and “Intervention in Syria: Reconciling Moral Premises and Realistic Outcomes,” (with Eva Bellin, Middle East Brief, June 2012).  “Abbas also wants to demonstrate to Israel and the U.S. that he has other cards to play if the peace process fails, and the PA’s push for membership in UN institutions is part of this strategy as well.”

For Hamas’ part, Krause argues that the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt and subsequent Egyptian crackdown on Gaza smuggling tunnels, along with a loss of funding from Iran due to Hamas’ break with Assad in Syria, has hurt Hamas in terms of both its finances and its popular support, leaving the group looking for an alternative option of its own to forestall domestic unrest in Gaza.

Despite these motivations, “it is far from clear that the ‘unity’ deal will be implemented,” Krause says.  “There have been similar deals agreed to in recent years that have been gathering dust. Even if it is implemented, it’s not clear how much it changes the game inside the Palestinian national movement. The parties have not announced how much power Hamas would have once inside the PLO, which has always been a key stumbling block in the past. Furthermore, elections are not supposed to happen for over six months, and if at the end of them you still have a split electorate, it’s not clear how parties competing inside of the PA/PLO makes for a different outcome than parties competing outside of this framework. If Abbas disassembles the PA, that would mark a significant change, but there is a great deal of risk and uncertainty associated with such a move.”

In the meantime, Krause notes that for the ongoing peace process, the key arenas to watch are internal Palestinian and Israeli politics. 

“Even though the meetings between the two sides make the headlines, the real story is often in the internal discussions and disputes back home that help dictate the positions and strategies the negotiators take.”


 Media Note: Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html


Sean Hennessey
Associate Director
Office of News and Public Affairs
Boston College

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