Wilson School professor Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt, and politics professor Amaney Jamal discussed the reasons the United States should take action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a public forum on Tuesday.
The talk started with Kurtzer's discussion of the Israel-Palestine peace process. Kurtzer explained that Palestinians are not interested in resuming negotiations, since they see the current Israeli government as uninterested in peace. Israel has continued with settlements and demands the recognition of a Jewish state, he added, while the United States has become fatigued with involvement.
"We're now relying on maintaining the status quo," Kurtzer said. "As we know, status quos are not static. They get better and, more likely in this situation, get worse."
For the United States specifically, he described a "Washington consensus" that was stalling progress in the region. The Washington consensus states that the time is not right for the conflict to be solved, that the conflict is too hard to solve, that leaders are too weak, that the United States can't want peace more than the parties involved, that the United States has many other priorities and that this issue can wait until after the elections.
"If we dispense with this so-called Washington consensus excuse for inaction, this is the moment to take the fork in the road, and that means a significant U.S. effort to advance the prospects of peace," Kurtzer said.
Kurtzer said that the parties involved mostly agreed on the concessions necessary for peace and that the peace process was "politically very hard but not substantively hard."
Kurtzer was followed by Jamal's discussion of the impact of the Arab Spring. Jamal noted two key components of the movement: a reaction against authoritarianism and the lack of economic development, and a resistance to perceived foreign domination, including U.S. foreign policy that has privileged Israel over Arab states, with the second component of key importance in Arab-Israeli relations.
"For the longest time, Israel has relied on bilateral agreements with authoritarian leaders with little or no input from the Arab populations," Jamal said. "Now Arab popular opinion is going to matter, so the Arab Spring has put a big question mark on the peace process."
Jamal attributed deteriorating Arab-Israeli relations after the Arab Spring to Israel's reliance in the past three years on bilateral treaties with now-toppled authoritarian regimes and the fact that it has ignored Arab popular opinion.
Several audience members noted that the lecture's setup allowed for an informative comparison between Kurtzer and Jamal's outlooks.
"It was very interesting to hear the perspectives of both a U.S. official and an academic who was able to show the distinction between policy considerations and bigger ethnic and cultural conflict," Adam Tcharni '15 said.
Kurtzer and Jamal spoke before a packed audience that included Rep. Rush Holt in Robertson Hall. The talk was organized by Tigers for Israel and co-sponsored by the Muslim Students Association.