In America, election outcomes are overwhelmingly driven by macroeconomic outcomes. And as Max Fischer notes, perhaps we should assume the same thing about Arab politics:
Though these three states [i.e., Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria] all took such vastly different approaches to the two issues that supposedly drive popular sentiment in the Arab world — the U.S. and Israel — they have endured startlingly similar anti-government protest movements. But if these foreign policy issues are really as important to Arab publics as Assad believes them to be, if they really constitute the key variable in regime stability, then why have these three governments found themselves embroiled in such similar protest movements? Why did Tunisians ultimately rise up against economic restrictions and police brutality? Why did Egyptians call for shutting down the interior ministry and raising the minimum wage, but not ending Mubarak’s alliance with Israel? For that matter, why did they endure decades of Egyptian-Israeli ties, only to finally rise up over totally unrelated concerns? Why are Syrian protesters making the same demands now? Is it possible that Assad, and many of us in the West, have gotten Arab priorities so wrong?
I wouldn’t even say that we’ve necessarily gotten the priorities wrong as simply failed to ask the question. We are very interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the geopolitics of oil. We’re not really interested in the price of food. But people who actually live there see things differently.