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2013 Winter Issue 8 (March 8, 2013)

Former Ambassador Kurtzer Gives Talk on Israeli-Palestinian Road to Peace

March 10, 2013
By Ben Strauss

Former US Ambassador to Egypt and Israel, Daniel Kurtzer gave a peace talk on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Twin Cities. A busload of Carleton students trekked north last February, 27th to hear Kurtzer’s opinion of what is really going on between Israel and Palestine: is the process towards peace at a standstill or is it possible in the near future?

“I thought it was great to hear from someone with so much experience with American-Israeli-Palestinian relations. I appreciated his candid remarks on the subject,” said Joy Hill ’16.

Kurtzer’s talk covered three primary phenomena in the process towards peace: a desirability, possibility, and openness of US foreign policy to direct Israel and Palestine down a friendlier road.

Before examining the process of peacemaking, however, Kurtzer raised the question of whether people in Israel and Palestine really want to make peace, and suggested that perhaps, “not everybody is willing to make the sacrifices and hard choices required for peace.”

“It is important to understand that while there are significant barriers to a peaceful solution these barriers can be overcome with serious work from both Israel and Palestine and the United States,” said Miles Douglas ’14, an attendee of the talk.

The talk raised the question of Israel’s and Palestine’s openness to peace.

“The Zionist movement has understood that as a matter of national security they needed to compromise,” Kurtzer pointed out, adding, “Historically, Palestinian movements have not.”

He suggested Palestinians appear complacent with a continued stalemate, and Israel is doing little to strengthen its image and pacificity.

As Kurtzer put it: “They know each other as they kill each other.”

Regardless of the current stalemate, Kurtzer believes in future peace, and believes Washington must take an active role in the compromise between Israel and Palestine.

“The answer to the question of peace is a definite yes.”

The question is how. Kurtzer is critical of Washington’s current inaction. He criticized “Washington pundits” who claim the US might fail if they intervene as detrimental to the peacemaking process.

Some students were critical of Kurtzer’s lack of analysis on how the US should take action.

“Ambassador Kurtzer was clearly very intelligent and well-versed in the issues at hand, but at points was tip-toeing around sensitivities to avoid offending the audience,” said Maddie Ulanow ’15.

In addition, students felt Kurtzer could have been more specific about the issues.

"I guess it’s easier to be correct when you’re being vague,” said Ulanow, “I would have liked to hear him elaborate on specific actions that the Obama administration could and should take, or where they can right the wrong turns they’ve made in the past.”

Kurtzer’s talk raised the question and debate of America’s proper role in conflict resolution.

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