Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Middle East Comes to Town: The New America Foundation

My dissertation advisor, Professor Shibley Telhami, is first to speak on this panel. The consummate diplomat, he still feels it necessary to point out the danger in allowing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to be overshadowed by concerns over Iran's nuclear program. This is certainly a tactic employed by not only those who want to delay a solution to Israel/Palestine (which would enhance Israel's position, since it can continue to build settlements in the meantime) but also those who want a military solution to the issue of Iran. This is a powerful confluence of interests - and it will take the voices of all those in favor of a rational, diplomatic solution to both issues (separately) to drown them out. When I was at the Israeli Embassy one year ago, I was fed this same issue linkage that's now being trotted out by every hawk and Netanyahu apologist in town. The Palestinian conflict was referred to as "secondary" and dismissed as a topic of legitimate concern in the face of obvious Iranian designs to nuke Israel. Iran, and its anti-Israeli rhetoric, would be seriously ostracized in the region if there were a real solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Again, we see a radical minority in all three polities (Israel, Palestine and the US) stonewalling a real solution. Most Israelis want a two-state solution, and they want the settlements stopped. Most Palestinians and Americans want the same. Someone in the administration needs to stand up and say "Enough!" No more hiding behind the Iranian threat - institute the changes embodied in previous peace accords (even unilaterally) and weaken Iran's political legitimacy in the region. This is the first step - unfortunately it's not one that any elected leader seems brave enough to take (until of course he's out of office, aka Olmert).

No comments: