Jerome Slater, professor emeritus at SUNY Buffalo, gave a Gaudino lecture on the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict last night in Griffin 6. In a lecture entitled “Israel and the Palestinians: The Case for an Imposed U.S. Settlement,” Slater outlined the history of the conflict and the need for resolution.
Slater, who has written several articles on the Israel-Palestine conflict, spoke for 40 minutes about the current situation and his solution as well as his fears for the region if a resolution is not reached. His main argument in support of the United States to intervene and force an agreement was to prevent the use of “weapons of mass destruction.”
Slater spoke about how the alliance between America and Israel has helped to escalate warfare and has made for “unacceptable risks to America.” He said that the current situation in Israel and America’s all but guarenteed support for that nation, has been a disaster for both Israel and Palestine.He said that the U.S.-Israeli alliance has caused more threats by fundamentalist terrorist groups and said that it “cannot be said to have no connection to the current situation in Iraq.”
He stressed throughout the lecture that unless there is a resolution, weapons of mass destruction will be used against the U.S. as part of retaliation by nations in the Middle East. He believes that an Arab-Israeli war is highly unlikely, but an attack on the United States is more probable because of the current unequivocal alignment with Israel.
Slater proposed that the United States intervene directly in the situation rather than through Israeli contacts. He outlined a plan of several compromises between Israel and Palestine in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and “right of return,” which addresses the fate of the several million Palestinians living in exile outside of Israel. Although a similar treaty was not approved by the Palestinians previously, Slater believes that the treaty would be accepted given the current climate. He believes the only obstacle to the implementation of such a treaty is that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Israeli right will not agree to it.
Slater said United States has the power and leverage to force Israel to agree to such a pact. Slater noted that Israel’s economy depends heavily on direct and indirect trade with America.
Israel also relies on America for protection from Arab aggression, Slater said. Also, a direct American role in resolving the conflict would improve America’s image in the region. Slater called for America to give Israel some “tough love,” rather than weapons.
At the end of the lecture, he emphasized that the threat of terrorism will increase in the U.S. and Israel if a settlement is not reached.
Although Slater portrayed a bleak future for the region if the United States does not assume a direct role in the process, he did justify American support for the creation of Israel during the late 1940s.
“The necessity for the creation of a Jewish state was apparent and needed,” he said.
Slater said that he felt this was the point where the U.S. national interest versus moral interest began and has not stopped. Slater went on to discuss that during the Cold War period most U.S. government officials thought that Israel was a strategic asset. During this period the moral and national interest seemed aligned. However, it turned out that the support for Israel gave the Soviets power to make alliances with Arab regimes. Accordingly, many factors have contributed to the current situation.
After the lecture, Slater answered questions from the audience of students, faculty and locals.
A much-debated question was if American involvement would be enough to truly solve the problem which has led to such violence and hatred in the region. Slater suggested that the current violence between the Israeli military and Palestinians would stop since Israel’s military and weapons of mass destruction pose too much of a threat. He also believes that if Palestine were to attack after a settlement were reached “Israel would have worldwide support” for large-scale retaliatory strikes.
Although he believes the violence amongst Israel and Palestine would stop, he stopped short of saying that terrorism would stop. Slater said that most extremists and terrorists have no rationale for their actions and might strike regardless of U.S. intervention and settlement.