Tuesday, Boston College played host to a trio of experts in Middle Eastern politics in a panel discussion, "U.S.-Israeli Relations: Past, Present, and Future."
The panel was sponsored by BC's program in Islamic Civilizations, the Clough Center, the political science department, the Jewish studies program, the Arab Students Association, Al-Noor, the Coalition for Israel, the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Student Association, and Hillel, and was hosted by Rebecca Clark, GA&S '13.
The panel was the culmination of months of planning, and consisted of Aaron Miller, a Middle East analyst, author, and negotiator; Shai Feldman, professor of politics at Brandeis University; and Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP).
Miller began the discussion by praising the political environment of BC, saying that BC students interact in an "extraordinary amicable and civil fashion, which is not the case in other universities."
The U.S.-Israeli relationship is one driven more by identity and ideology than by interest, Miller said.
He said the United States is a remarkably unique nation, able to practice isolation while simultaneously enjoying abundant resources, and said that the United States owed its current state all to "location, location, location."
Israelis, however, do not enjoy the same prosperity, Miller said. Their lives leave no room for doubt or hesitation. The tension within their world is due to a conflict between identity and interest.
"Obama misread his moment in Arab-Israeli peace," Miller said. The United States "has big talk, yet no action, and still, no peace." He called for an American mediator to overlook Arab and Israeli peace talks.
Feldman took the podium next, and said, "The fundamentals of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel remain as strong as they [have been] since the Kennedy Administration."
All U.S. presidents since John F. Kennedy have been committed to the survival of Israel, Feldman said, and, in his opinion, Obama has upheld this commitment.
In a recent poll, Americans voted Israel as one of their top five favorite countries, according to Feldman, whereas the U.S. is less supportive of Israel's neighbors. He also said that, while most of America's allies show deep contempt for Americans, the Israeli people continue to adore them.
However, "At the end of the day, Obama doesn't give such a priority to the Palestinian-Israeli relations as he does to domestic issues," Feldman said.
Ibish concluded the panel by examining the nature of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. In order to usher in any change, he said, Israel and Palestine must cement some type of relationship.
A third party could oversee this relationship, Ibish said. He concluded by saying that American backing is key to a bottom-up approach to the formation of relations between Israel and Palestine.
When it comes to the role of the United States in the Middle East, Miller said that the United States is at the most vulnerable position in its history. As a result of the events of the past decade, the United States is effectively "stuck in the Middle East," he said.
Clark said that she "sought to select a topic that was of interest across the political spectrum," and had been in the process of planning the event since last fall.