It is too soon to know how much impact these protests will have in the short term, given that protests are not novel in Egypt and there has long been a much freer and more contentious media than in Tunisia. Like many people, I have been skeptical about the ability of the Egyptian opposition to overcome their internal divisions or a well-prepared regime focused intensely on not becoming the next Ben Ali. We’ve watched wave after wave of protest be crushed by the Egyptian regime. But I’m certainly hoping that this time they can capture momentum and change the game in Egypt. There seems to be a renewed energy and sense of possibility, one which is clearly being understood by Egyptians as part of a broader Arab narrative of a collective popular uprising against economic conditions, political repression, and corruption.
More broadly, it’s astonishing how much is now in motion in Arab politics after such a long period of seeming stagnation. There’s a vivid sense of an era coming to a close and an uncertain new vista opening. Even if Al Jazeera’s release of the so-called “Palestine Papers” doesn’t bring down Abu Mazen’s negotiating team or the PA it feels like the autopsy of a long-dead peace process. Hezbollah’s Parliamentary maneuver to bring down the Hariri government and replace him with veteran politician and businessman Najib Miqati, a response to the Special Tribunal’s reported indictments which has sparked violent protests by Hariri backers, may mean an end to the era of U.S. alliance with a March 14-led Lebanon. It’s hard to know where to focus — but in fact I continue to see these seemingly unrelated events as part of a broader story of the crumbling of an Arab status quo which has long seemed unsustainable.