Monday, May 4, 2009

AIPAC Policy Conference: Panel Discussion

This is a panel discussion featuring Michael Herzog and Efraim Sneh and moderated by Brad Gordon

Gordon - we have an administration that seeks dialog with Iran, but if dialog feels we will seek crippling sanctions. How does this fit into Israel's strategic considerations.

Herzog: For Israel, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. In Europe, some agree it's unacceptable, but some merely believe it's undesirable.

Engagement is legitimate, but there are questions. We have to be clear about the aim, to be sure we will know whether it's succeeding. We need to make sure it's not something that will just enable Iran to buy tim.

We want to see a clear timeframe, not too long, and with specific benchmarks.

Gordon: The Arab states are at least as concerned about Iran getting nuclear arms as Israel. What will it take to get the Arab states to be reading off the same sheet as the US and Israel.

Sneh: We heard Obama last year as a candidate. We accept his good intentions, but we are very skeptical. We know the Iranians are masters of deception and misleading. It's very easy for them to deceive a government that comes with a very different set of values and a very different culture.

This dialog cannot be open ended; there must be a reasonable timetable. What kind of agreement can we come to with a regime that wants to be a global competitor. The problem isn't the bomb, its the aggression and growing military capability.

Whenever there is a threat and a danger there are new opportunities. All the Arab countries are scared to death. We are concerned, but they are scared.

There is no chance to recruit the Arab countries to an anti-Iran front if there is no progress towards solving the Palestinian Arab problem.

Herzog: Iran is the one topic the Arabs always talk about, but what they require is clear American leadership.

Gordon: Results of Cast Lead, some reduction in rockets from Gaza and some Egyptian efforts to stop smuggling. Given the divisions in the Palestinian community, how do we move the process forward.

Sneh: In both communities, there is a majority that want a solution.

We have to continue to talk with those who represent the majority of the Palestinian people and not the minority, which is armed by Iran. As long as Hamas controls Gaza, the mission is not accomplished. To put an end to the rule of Gaza by Hamas is a clear strategic goal.

Herzog: There were two options re Gaza. One was to reconquer Gaza and take out Hamas; the other was to hit hard and deter Hamas. We opted for the second. We had other, more serious challenges like Iran and the northern border.

Hamas was hit harder than ever before and now there is hardly any firing of rockets. On the ground, Hamas is deterring others from firing rockets. We've reached some understandings with Egypt, which is much more effective today about restricting smuggling than ever before.

Maybe, at some time in the future, we'll have to go and confront Hamas again and take things all the way.

Gordon: To the north are Syria and Lebanon. What happens if Hezbollah actually wins the Lebanese elections in June. What do you think Assad's intentions are re peace with Israel.

Sneh: Hezbollah got what they want in Lebanon. The lesson for Israel is we should rely on ourselves. The gap with Syria is unbridgeable.

Herzog: Things with Syria could develop either way. Syria wants a peace process not for its own merits but for other reasons. They want to get international recognition of its dominant role in Lebanon. They also want the Golan Heights, although not as its first priority. We owe it to ourselves to explore the possibility. The result depends in part on the U.S. role.

Another problem with Syria. We wanted a better situation in Lebanon; not sure we can get that today. We may face a situation where, even if we have a strategic dialog with Syria, it will follow in Lebanon. I'm pessimistic about Lebanon.

Sneh: If there's real progress with Syria, Iran will do its best to topple Assad's regime.

Gordon: The possibility the government of Pakistan will fall and be replaced by the Taliban.

Herzog: That wold be a nightmare. We don't have enough strategic information to make a judgement. It would change the equation with Iran as well, which would race faster to go nuclear and there would be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The U.S. should be in the lead here.

Sneh: Re Iran, we are ready to take the lead on our own if necessary. But Pakistan, let somebody else take care of Pakistan.

Gordon: Israel has lots of strategic difficult problems to confront, which would be difficult for much larger states to deal with. We can all be comforted that people like Herzog and Sneh are among those working to deal with those problems.


There is NO Santa Claus said...

So Primerprez! Were you present for VP Biden's speech today?

Seems like last year that a certain Presidential candidate by the name of Barak O'Bama told the AIPAC policy conference that he favored a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. When confronted by the Saudi Petrochemical lobby over his remarks, Sen. O'Bama qualified his statements. He said that this was all subject to negotiations between the parties and that the United States wouldn't impose a solution on the parties.

How does this compare with what VP Biden said today at the AIPAC policy conference?

Just thought I'd ask.

primerprez said...

Yes, I was there and will post some comments after I grade some final exams. I can quickly say Biden didn't say anything he'd want to qualify, except when he said "I'm going to tell you some things you won't want to hear" and then said some things anyone who is really interested in a real, effective peace process wouldn't want to hear, because they were foolish and counterproductive, effectively feeding bloody flesh to sharks, in this case the sharks being the Israel-haters.