O, U think you know the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
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O, U think you know the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, moderated a discussion on Sunday with Bret Stephens, deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute’s Project on the Middle East Peace Process, as part of the OU’s national convention in Woodcliff Lake.

The Big Lipowsky was on the ground during the convention and you can see highlights in my Twitter feed from Sunday and, of course, you can get the full story in Friday’s paper. But there was just too much in that panel to include, so The Big Lipowsky presents to you here highlights from the Stephens-Makovsky discussion on U.S.-Israel relations.

Stephens:
“Barak Hussein Obama is less popular in Turkey than George Walker Bush was.”

“The notion of Israeli-Palestinian peace is synonymous with Middle East peace. Not the case, Middle East peace also includes what’s happening in Lebanon, Copts in Egypt, Tunis….”

“Another mistake the Obama administration made was the notion that in order to get Middle East peace you have to step on Israel. Few administrations have put their foot down more obxnoxiously, more heavily than this administration did, reaching a climax in March 2010 with Vice President Biden’s visit to the region and almost bizarre prejudiced hysteria that met planning stages of Ramat Shlomo.”

“The Obama administration may vote for a UN resolution calling settlements illegal and they are potentially prepared to vote for this to entice the Palestinians to come back to the table – [this is] gossip, but bad for Israel and bad for U.S. because it eliminates any leverage the U.S. has to come to a more imaginative solution.”

“The fundamental problem with this admininistration is the failure to recognize that for the Palestinians this conflict is not territorial, it’s existential. They continue not to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation.”

“What Israel ought to be doing is pointing out it faces a Palestinian population that doesn’t want a Palestinian state confined to Gaza and the West Bank, but to seize Gaza and the West Bank as phase one.”

“Israel’s going to have to hold fast for years until there is a cultural climate in the Arab world for peace…. Until then I hope Israel continues not to lose its nerve.”

“Abu Mazen (aka Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) was elected in a quasi-democratic election, his term expired two years ago. Abu Mazen is 76, he won’t live forever. Who will be his successor? What kind of deal do you expect them to strike and do you expect their successors to honor that?”

“The more Israel has made concessions, the more hated it has been.”

“There is no part of the Jewish world that’s doing outreach to the philo-Semitic community. People should be going to talk to undergrads at University of Nebraska, University of Texas. There is a population there worth engaging.”

“The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority is Ismail Haniyah. He won the election. Why did Hamas win? It won in large part because of broader forces in the Arab world, particularly the Islamization of the Muslim world.”

Makovsky:
“I don’t think anybody should romanticize what it was when we had Arafat. There’s at least a hope that we’re seeing something different. Arafat – one of the reasons why he was so horrific, he perpetrated a culture of victimization. Palestinians have been the victim and therefore not responsible for anything but entitled to everything. This was terrible for Israelis but no less terrible for Palestinians.”

“I think there’s some hope. Some glimmers. There’s a change in culture of accountability. [There’s] a belief [among Palestinians that] it’s not just about whining about what the Israelis are doing to us but what are we doing for us.”

“They have removed hundreds of imams from these mosques in the West Bank. It’s a whole shift. They now write sermons about what you can say. Plain clothesmen in the mosques reporting on the drashas of the imams.
This is in my view a seachange from where we were with Arafat.”

“This is the beginning of a change. Do I think it’s enough? No. we have to keep being vigilant and focus on the teachers. Eleven hundred were just screened out in the West Bank as Hamas sympathizers.”

“We have more hope today than we have had in a very long time. Israel has to stand fast in what it believes in and its security but it has every interest in encouraging a non-Hamas approach to this problem.”

“I don’t believe all the issues can be solved. I believe the issues like Jerusalem and the refugees relate to the self-definitions of the parties. I don’t think we should try to do it all and fail. In the Middle East, when it’s all or nothing it’s always nothing.”

“As long as Hamas is in Gaza, Israel has to treat it like a hostile entity.” He called for approaching Gaza and the West Bank like the West approached East Berlin and West Berlin. “Give people in the West Bank a sense that it pays. You can’t solve everything but you can solve a lot.”

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