First, I would like to know whether Kerry’s diplomatic push is spoken of in a positive or negative manner. That is, whether U.S. getting the sides to the table is a good thing or not – NOT whether the chances of success are good. Not whether there is no partner, etc. That is, does AIPAC support diplomacy with regard to the Palestinians?
I am interested to hear how much support you hear for a two state solution. Again, not whether or not it is likely to come about right now – but whether it is a good idea or not that trying our hardest to work towards that goal or not. In that regard, do you hear anyone talking about the importance of coming up with some solution to the current Occupation? Do people think that the status quo can continue indefinitely? Or, annexation of Judea and Samaria into one Jewish state where the Palestinians have less rights than Jews? Annexation of Judea and Samaria where it’s one person, one vote? Or, again, Do you hear anyone talking about creative solutions, like saying that it might be a good idea to freeze construction in the West Bank temporarily to see whether this might force the Palestinians to ‘put up or shut up’?
Do you hear anyone talking about very real everyday facts on the ground in the West Bank? Like in East Jerusalem that Palestinians are being forced from their homes and replaced by Jews? Or, about Settler violence (so called “price tag” attacks) including burning of olive trees, torching of mosques, and even firing guns at Palestinians by both settlers and even IDF – with almost no legal recourse? Or the destruction of Bedouin structures (as flimsy as they may be) that are on their own land? These are facts which are written about in Israeli papers that should be discussed here as well. In the same way that the rocket firings from Gaza, or the buildup in arms by Hezbollah, or the fact that Hamas is going broke need to be discussed. (One excellent thing is there isn’t much to discuss about violence from the West Bank against Israelis because as I understand it, in the last two years, thank God, there has only been one killing of a Jew by an Arab from the West Bank. That is one too many – but frankly if you look into it, I believe that you will find that it is less than the number of Palestinians that have been killed by settlers and IDF during that same time period.)
Next, I am curious to know whether you hear support for diplomacy with Iran – and what the nature of the agreement is that they would support. I personally am a big supporter of keeping the military option on the table – but even more importantly, I believe that we need to push very hard to make this diplomatic effort work. Public criticism of the administration makes very little sense given that we are in negotiations at the moment. Doesn’t this type of rift show weakness, not strength? Although AIPAC finally backed off pushing the Senate Sanctions bill when the Republicans tried to force a vote (and they are still trying to force a vote by attaching the language to other bills), they essentially ignored Kerry’s specific call during Senate hearings for them to hold off on this bill until the talks had run their course. If sanctions were supposed to force the Iranians to the bargaining table, then they worked. It is time to support the negotiations and the negotiators. While I have heard the argument that the Senate sanctions bill will provide more leverage, that is not the Administration’s position. The move in the Senate appears to be more grandstanding than anything else – and particularly now that the Republicans are moving to call a vote. Wouldn’t it be more effective to work behind the scenes to make sure that the Administration drives a hard bargain?
Also, I would like to hear about the diplomatic proposals that are being discussed. Although it would best if Iran dismantled their entire program – no enrichment, no centrifuges, no missiles – realistically, they will never agree to this. It would be too much of a loss of face for them both internationally and domestically. Therefore, be aware that anyone proposing no enrichment is not seriously supporting a diplomatic agreement. They aren’t necessarily warmongers – but many do in fact know that the Iranians will never accept this, but it is their way of “supporting” diplomacy while knowing that their position has no chance of acceptance. Listen carefully to people. Some will say that Iran must be prevented from getting a nuclear . Others will say that it must be prevented from having a nuclear capability. This is a significant difference and you should listen closely for who says which. If they say capability, they are usually also saying that Iran must eliminate their entire nuclear program – which as I said above is totally unrealistic.
I am particularly interested to know how much talk there is about the consequences of possible military action – and what the speakers say about it. I haven’t seen the agenda, but I believe that there may indeed be some experts discussing this and I would be interested to know what their assessments are.
Finally, a little prognostication on my part. My bet is that every Congressman and Senator will say the following:
“Israel is our greatest ally”
“Israel shares our values”
“Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, the US and the entire world”
“Iran is the greatest supporter of terrorism in the world” [What ever happened to Al Qaeda?]
“The military option must not be taken off the table” [A very true statement – but how many folks are willing to talk about the exact make up of the military action – and what the resulting risks and consequences might be. Are folks willing to risk Hezbollah raining down hundreds or thousands of rockets on Israel? The question needs to be discussed]
“Israel’s security is our number one priority”
“I love Israel [more than the next guy]”
Don’t get me wrong, these are all good things. Most of these are true statements. However, the answers are so pat, that they border on pandering – and most important, it is not good if this is the level of sophistication with which these people are going to be basing their votes on when it comes to legislation that has such serious consequences for the US, Israel and the entire world.
Looking forward to hearing about the Conference. Have a great trip and enjoy!