Monday, December 29, 2008

Whither the Middle East - Dennis Ross on UChannel

While the war has escalated around Gaza and the Middle-East seems less stable than ever, it is refreshing to hear a relatively old podcast on the subject, that is from December 10th before the IDF offensive started. It is a talk by Dennis Ross delivered at Princeton and published in the UChannel Podcast series. Only yesterday another one came out, which I still have to listen to (with Martin Indyk, Richard Haass and Gary Samore)

Ross talks about the diplomatic possibilities in the Middle-East, getting into the details with regards to Iran and to the Israeli-Arab conflict. I found it very interesting to hear a case being made for diplomacy, without being starkly anti-war, nor being blissfully optimistic. Ross seems to soberly paint the various options there are. His leading principle is that of leverage. With leverage you can pressure anybody towards where you want them to go and the point is to see where you can have some leverage. The US has little leverage on Iran, but China and Russia have and and through Saudi-Arabia, the US can put pressure on China - for example. Along this kind of chain thinking, Ross proposes way for diplomacy, rather than military to steer Iran away from its nuclear program.

Similarly, and perhaps not by chance also with an important role for Saudi-Arabia, Ross proposes approaches for Israel. However, here he also introduces another dimension: the deepest lack of confidence between Israel and the Palestinians, most notably Hamas. Ross calls it 'disbelief', which in his view goes further than just distrust. The situation of disbelief is the conviction that there is absolutely no partner for diplomacy, no basis for talk whatsoever. Hence, the start Ross proposes, is to deal with that psychology of the conflict and take measures that bring the populace to reevaluate its beliefs and hopefully draw different conclusions. What the current war, however, does for disbelief is dishearteningly predictable.

More UChannel:
Kafka comes to America,
Lord Lawson and the alarmists,
Terror and Consent,
Nudge: improving decisions and behavior,
Hot, Flat and Crowded.

More Israel:
Desiring Walls,
Gabriela Shalev,
UCLA Israel Studies,
The Arab-Israeli conflict,

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