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Vote: Most influential Middle East story of 2012
By CHAVI MOSKOWITZ
12/26/2012
In the running: Conflict in Syria, Morsi takes office, Iran's nuclear program, Palestinian statehood, Mashaal visits Gaza.
 
As would be expected, 2012 was a heated year in the Middle East, with the top five stories coming in from all over the region.

The conflict between Syria and President Bashar Assad's regime escalated exponentially this year. With thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians dead, many players in the international community are considering intervening. Concern has also risen in Israel regarding the chemical weapons in Syria. If these weapons get into the wrong hands it could mean serious action on Israel’s part. For the moment the country’s every move is being monitored.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood took office in late June of this year, winning with just over 50 percent of the vote. His taking office worried Israel because of their previously successful peace agreements with ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Since taking office Morsi has continued to make headlines, most recently with his call to ratify the country’s constitution. He has shown his tendency to need to please Islamist groups, which does not bode well for the country.

The Iranian threat has been less visible since IDF's Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip, but it is no less present. The Islamic republic's nuclear program has, however, been delayed because of use of uranium for civilian purposes. This has not erased the possibility of conflict with Iran but postponed it. Alert has also been raised over Iranian claims to have captured a US drone.



In late November this year, despite the US and Israel opposing the bid, Palestine won an historic upgrade at the UN. Israel's Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor dismissed the move as empty and symbolic, and said that it would not change the situation on the ground. In response to the UN decision, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved the construction of 3,000 new housing units and fast-tracked many more for permits, in turn casting doubt over a renewal of peace talks.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made his first ever visit to Gaza in December, 2012, attending a rally to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Islamist movement. At the rally Mashaal vowed never to recognize Israel, or to back down from his claim to all Israeli territory. Despite running the group largely from exile in Syria, Mashaal was well received in Gaza and will likely continue as its leader for the foreseeable future.

Click here to vote for the top Middle East story of 2012.
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