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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

Educational Resources

Town Hall Meetings Transcripts

Conversation with Dr. Stephen P. Cohen

Recorded April 28, 2003

Moderator: Hi, Dr. Cohen, members of Brit Tzedek and friends, we're really delighted to have Dr. Cohen to come and speak with us. I've never done a call like this so I'm excited to hear what Dr. Cohen has to say. Everybody knows that Stephen Cohen is from the Institute for Middle East Development, but he is best known for his relationship with leaders in Israel, with the Palestinian leadership, with leaders in the U.S., as well as in the Arab world. I've heard him speak often and was impressed by his knowledge of and commitment to these issues. So the way that it will work will be that Dr. Cohen will speak for about 25 minutes. We've asked him to give a brief description and history of the road map, how he sees the present situation in Israel relating to the road map as a negotiated solution to the conflict, and to talk about the current situation vis--vis Iraq. During that time people can email into the Town Hall at with questions, David and I will receive them and after approximately 25 minutes I will be asking Dr. Cohen those questions that you send me. So Dr. Cohen why don't you start.

Cohen: Good evening everyone. I'm glad to be with you. I think Brit Tzedek is good news in the Arab-Israeli relations story this year and I'm very glad to join you for this call. With the [decision] of the leadership of Fatah to support Abu Mazen's cabinet we're on the verge of the shedding of light on the road map which has been an open secret for well over five months now. It is now going to become important for people to know what it is and what it isn't. The road map started out as a determined attempt by a few people in the State Department, in certain parts of the world and especially Europe, and in the United Nations, to try to turn the President's speech of June 24th from the end of hope that there would be a peace process in the time of George Bush into the hope that there might be one.

It's taken quite a long time for the road map to really become a firm policy of the United States. The story of that process is important in itself. But I would say one thing that I think is important for Brit Tzedek. The attempt to bury the road map was a very determined attempt on the part of certain elements of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, and in certain elements in the circle around the prime minister. The failure of the attempt to bury the road map before it even came out, the attempt to belittle it, the attempt to transform it, the attempt to change it, the attempt to truncate it -- the failure of these attempts is not an insignificant event and it shows that if there is and I say if there is a true determination on the part of the administration to try to make something serious out of the road map it has the clout in the present circumstances to be able to make that happen. There has been one last major attempt to undermine the road map that has come from the far right in America led by Newt Gingrich and that included a wholesale attack on the State Department and on Colin Powell and that has rebounded against Gingrich bringing Powell and especially his pugnacious number two [Undersecretary of State Armitage-ed] to fight back in a way that they haven't so far in all of the ways that they have been sidestepped by other parts of the administration. I give you that political introduction before I get to content because the critical question about the road map is going to be the political will of the United States and of the President to allow Secretary Powell and his team to really push the road map significantly into a stage of implementation.

So what is the road map? The road map is the compilation of ideas that tries to build on what happened in the failed attempts of Mitchell, Tenet, and of General Zinni in this administration, plus ideas that grew out of elements of the peace process that preceded the Bush administration into a series of steps. It tries to overcome its contradictions, not by deciding between them, but by asserting both sides of the contradiction. Let me give you an example. There are those that believe that any process of peace now should be entirely performed in space. That is you don't go on to the next step until there is verifiable, complete fulfillment of the stage before. And there are those who feel that a peace process is not going to succeed unless it has a real time-table because otherwise this basis of performance will lead to more and more delays, more and more procrastinations, more and more time wasting. Now the road map does not decide between these two, but rather decides to affirm both. And so it is both performance-based and it has timetables.

There has been a controversy ever since Mitchell about whether or not Israeli performance and Palestinian performance should be simultaneous or should be sequential. Should it be that first the Palestinians perform and then the Israelis perform, only after the Palestinians have done their performance which means make the changes that are demanded of them? Or is it to be parallel that while the Palestinians are doing what they have to do, the Israelis are carrying out certain things that they have to do? And again the road map does not decide between parallel and sequential approaches, it basically has both of them. And this is the way the road map reads again and again. Does the road map say the United States and the third party or does the United States say the quartet as the third party. Well, the road map again has some of both and it is not going to be clear until we see actually how the road map is carried out. Whether it will be that the road map is a road map of a group of nations or a road map of the United States and the most likely thing is that vis--vis the Israelis its going to be mostly American and vis--vis the Arabs its going to be multinational. And the same is true as to whether or not this road map is wholly an Israeli and Palestinian issue or it is an Israeli-Arab issue. While this document has support for both ways of understanding the situation it is primarily about the creation of a Palestinian state running side by side with Israel. But it is also about the implementation of the Arab summit resolution of last year, which says that the Arabs as a whole and each individual will recognize Israel and create peaceful relations with Israel once there is an overall solution of the problem based on UN resolution 242 and based on both principal ?Alliance of Peace? and based on the principle of the June 4th orders.

Now, with all these contradictions that means a great deal about this implementation depends on the determination of the United States to press for what it wants from both sides. And that's why you have a constant attempt of people here to try to emphasize the Palestinian performance, the Palestinian requirements and to underestimate and to put aside the Israeli requirements even at the same time that there is a great criticism of the document for not being exclusive in making Palestinian demands first, making them most clear and having Israeli demands only follow the Palestinian demands. So the way to look at this document is that it is an attempt to solve contradictions by asserting both sides of the contradictions, and I say this with the awareness of the irony of that it may or may not turn out to be the only way that you can get something to happen in an administration itself which is so ambivalent about whether or not to really make a major effort on Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab relations.

Now the controversial aspects of this document are the specific elements of implementation that are required of each side. On the Palestinian side the most important element of implementation that is controversial is the element that requires Palestinian reform moving in the direction of a democratic state which involves both a constitutional process, an election process, and most famously a change in the leadership structure. On the Israeli side, the most controversial part is the very explicit and upfront demand of Israel about the freeze of settlements including the freeze on all building activity of any kind within the territories. The second thing that is controversial among Jews is the fact that in the third year there is to be a negotiation of a final status which is to end with a viable independent democratic Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, and that that is supposed to happen within three years. Now, that issue involves the question of an attempt to overcome the contradiction between Sharon's insistence that there could not be at this time a permanent status agreement but instead had to be a step by step interim agreement, and the Palestinian and Arab insistence that they would not again enter into a peace process that did not have a definition of the end goal.

That again is what makes this document controversial, is often made fun of by people who have been involved in previous attempts at peace making and is the subject of great hostility in the Jewish right; the question of the road map in my mind is not all of these specifics, but the question of the will of the United States to determinately push the parties through their compliance with it and to do so at enough intensity and speed that within the period of time that Bush is still is in his first term, or his last term, whichever it may be, that we get to the phase at which there is a Palestinian state even if that Palestinian states borders are not defined. And we get as well to the point at which there is the settlement freeze.

Now the most problematic part of this document is the insistence that the Palestinians actually emerge with a single command and control structure, that all Palestinian armed forces be under one command, and that this one command would instruct its people toward a cease fire in order for this process to go forward. That is not controversial any longer as to whether the Palestinians want it; it is accepted by both America and Israel that Abu-Mazen wishes for such an outcome. But it is controversial as to whether or not it is possible and under what circumstances it would be possible for Abu-Mazen and the Palestinians to actually reach a situation in which there was such a monopoly on force, that the monopoly on force was under control of this prime minister, and that the monopoly of force decided upon and was able to implement a cease fire. That is the issue that we're going to be aware of. What we're going to be seeing now is the secretary of state going forward and the determined attempt that goes beyond Gingrich, that try to belittle his efforts and to try to make this process move as slowly as possible, versus the question whether the secretary of state this time will understand that if he is to be any factor in the foreign policy of President Bush he is going to have to take his task which is peace making with the same intensity and drama as his colleagues in the defense department have taken their mandates to go to war.

Now, I'm going to stop here, but I just want to emphasize to you the unusual thing about this structure is that the battle is mostly about the willingness of the United States to assert itself. There is no question that both Israelis and Palestinians have been shocked by the military action in Iraq and it's dramatic success of conquering Baghdad without any major struggle from Baghdad. But for the Israelis and the Palestinians, that specter of major American dominance and power has a very different feel. And the question is whether or not there will be a sufficient subtlety and effectiveness and muscle in the American diplomacy to make that able to stick with both parties. We should understand that Abu-Mazen is very much on the verge of being treated as an American puppet and that would make of any of his efforts a certain failure. On the other hand, Sharon is toying with the question of whether or not he wants to be seen as maintaining a very strong US-Israel relationship and the question is how much the United States will make that strong US-Israel relationship subject to important and difficult changes in Israeli military behavior and Israeli military deployment in settlement policy. I welcome your comments and questions.

Moderator: I was wondering if you'd talk some about what you see happening in the United States within and outside the Jewish community in terms of the effect that we could have on US policy.

Cohen: Well I think that this is just a very critical moment. It is a critical moment in terms of the actual road map, in terms of the perceptions within the United States and among American Jews as to the relative ability of the formal institutions of the community to dispose of what the United States proposes. The failure to stop the road map, the failure to get it transformed in a major way is an important failure. And the only problem is that there is nobody around to accrue the benefits of that failure and to have it become clear in America (both among Jews and non-Jews) that there is a strong Jewish voice in a different direction which sees implementation of peace, reaching a Palestinian state, and peace with Israel as the ultimate goal. Getting a settlement freeze is not a negative thing but is something that serves the interest of Israel in a very profound way. What I'm saying is that there was this defeat, but no one to claim victory and I think that it is a weakness in terms of the public image of the many small groups that are not part of the established consensus of the President's comments and of AIPAC that threatens to deprive those groups of this very important moment in which the expectation of being able to defeat this road map has failed. So I see this as a moment that is important not only in terms of the need to push forward with the road map and for the administration to believe it can and will do so, but also in terms of whether or not we will see any change in the present reality that AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations basically have a veto over any major U.S. government initiatives relating to Israeli peace.

Moderator: The next question we have is from Seattle: "The first phase of the road map requires that Israel freeze their settlement activity. But a viable Palestinian state cannot exist with those Israeli settlements (in its midst). What process do you foresee that will move from a freeze on settlement activity to the removal of settlements and their related infrastructure?"

Cohen: I am very happy to have the optimism of Seattle which is willing to go from the end of the first phase which is the beginning of the settlement freeze to the second phase. The unspoken process that comes with a draconian settlement freeze (that is one in which you can't build new roads, you can't take new territory, you can't expand agricultural land) basically making a statement that the settlement movement has reached its high-water mark. But that would have a huge psychological impact on the settlers and they would start making different decisions on their future. And they would no longer have the psychological upper hand of being the ruling class of the West Bank, because their growth would now have been set by their government as having reached its apogee. That's a critical assumption and the question is how is the administration going to go beyond the first phases of the road map, the first baby steps which are themselves not so easy to accomplish. There are already proposals that are floating around about how the administration goes from the first step of delivering the road map and attaining the first steps of Abu-Mazen getting control of the military apparatus of the Palestinians to something more significant. I think that we have not heard the last proposal. I think that the authors of the road map are aware of the fact that other things will have to be coming to explain, to amplify, to reinforce, and to intensify the change, but I don't think one should underestimate the psychological impact of Israeli government under Sharon actually saying that settlements have reached their upper limit. I hope that the Seattle question will be a question we have to ask within the next year or so. But I would be very happy, even if its hard to get an answer, I'd be very happy if we actually reached the point that we were asking the question.

Moderator: The next question from Roger Kahn: "Given that the road map seems to demand so much from the Palestinians initially and so little from the Israelis in the beginning, how likely is it that the Palestinian leadership will agree (to it)? And if they do how likely is it that they will be able to get the rank and file, or the religious extremists such as Hamas to accept it?"

Cohen: As I said, I think that the Israeli government and its supporters here have already had to step back in a significant way from their attempt to undermine this document delivery and the maintenance of its integrity such as it is. So that is already a political shift. What are some the things Israel will have to do in the early stages? Lets take a small one. The end of targeted killings. I don't know about you Roger, but if that really happened I would not consider that a small thing. Its not enough, nothing is enough, except actually solving the problem. I want to tell you that we have gotten use to so many things that are really beyond the pale, that if some of these things start to happen on the Israeli side it is going to produce a significant change both in Israeli opinion and Palestinian opinion. At this moment Palestinian opinion doesn't believe in the road map; Palestinian opinion doesn't believe that there is going to be a two state solution. At this point for Palestinians, it is as unrealistic to say that there is going to be a Palestinian state in three years as to say that Israel is going to cease to exist. And therefore many of them are still toying with the idea that Israel is going to cease to exist, because it is no more unrealistic for them than the coming to the existence of a Palestinian state more or less within the June 4th (1967) borders. So what is the result of that? If some of these steps really do happen, and they happen in the context of the overall acceptance of the fact that they are steps linked to a permanent settlement in which there is a viable, permanent Palestinian state, then there might be a gradual beginning of political change in both parties which would make other things happen. You can't count on that, but it is possible that if there is an image of a moving force and that moving force would have to be American energy, that would change the situation. If there is an attempt to slow it all down by saying that it will only be what is agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians [in the short run], and that therefore it reestablishes a situation where Palestinian negotiators are basically negotiating from within their overall occupation and their overall control by Israel, this would not work. But there is a vision in this document of a gradually disappearing third party, the monitoring that is described is really prodding and pushing of the third party which is built-in throughout the system and throughout these years of the proposal. And I think that's an important part of your answer. Can the Palestinians actually do this? In my view, that is the hardest question. Not because of the Palestinian street, but because nobody is willing to see force use against Palestinians who believe that the better way is to continue armed struggle, until they see something real happening on the Israeli side. And therefore it is going to be a very tough business for Abu-Mazen to convince others, and I'm not sure that he is going to be able to do it without some real show of force. And I don't know where he is going to be able to get that, unless the United States is standing very strongly with him in confirming that there is going to be a real state coming out of this and that its not over the horizon, but (really) within view.

Moderator: Considering Israeli public opinion is directly responsible for the outcome of Israeli elections, what do you believe can be done to increase the level of awareness and education of the Israeli public, so that voters can make more informed decisions?

Cohen: If the issue that comes foremost is the issue of settlements and not the issue of Jerusalem, I think that the split that this will create between the right and the hard right is a very important step in the reformulation of Israeli politics. I want to say something that is going to very controversial to many of you here, including DH. Right now, there is a very interesting situation where the economic proposals of Netanyahu are not only anathema to the Labor party but they are anathema to the supporters of Shas. If one asks what would be able to produce some change in the political structure of the coalition of the right it would be that if Shas was able to find its way to have some excuse for going against Likud and for working together with Labor on the left. It may be that these (economic) proposals, together with the focus on settlements, could produce this, but its not going to be an easy thing because its going to mean that many of the hopes that Shas was going to obliterated are going to have to be put aside in the pursuit of this peace outcome. And I know that that's going to be a tough thing for people to accept. I think that the expectation that the Ashkenazi center left, whether with Meretz or with Labor, is going to be able to make this turn around on its own is demographically obsolete in Israel. The Left is going to have to find other constituencies, its going to have to be able to recreate a serious coalition with the one million Israelis, Palestinians, or Arabs of Israel, its going to have to break through to some of the ethnic constituencies in Israel, particularly Shas, but maybe others as well and we're going to have to see whether Shinui, which is right now the big supporter of this government is going to over time start to reflect some of the elements of Shinui which really would like to see a major breakthrough on the Israeli/Palestinian issue, a tendency that does not include the leader of Shinui but includes some of the other Shinui members of the Knesset. But I would say to you that the big political opportunity is created by this hyper approach to the economy which Bibi (Netanyahu) has succeded in making the policy of the Likud, that is where the political opportunities may arise within Israel itself.

Moderator: I have a question from Montreal Canada: "Do you agree with me that a prerequisite for any meaningful peace negotiations is a presence of an international force, the composition of which is acceptable to both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority with a clear mandate to monitor and prevent human rights violations?"

Cohen: I think that that is a very important and insightful point from Montreal and I think that I would go even further. I would say that the presence of a third party on the ground is going to be necessary not only in regard to the issue of human rights violations but with regard to the very basic question of whether the parties are meeting their obligations under this agreement. They are going to have to watch what is happening; they are going to have to watch what is happening with the Palestinian military organizations, they're going to have to watch what is happening with the redeployment of Israeli troops, economic change, the development of new Palestinian institutions. We're going to need a serious monitoring process. As I said earlier, when we say international, we're going to have to know that international is a somewhat simplified version of what we are actually going to have. From the Israeli point of view, this is going to be the Americans, from the Palestinian point of view it is going to be multilateral. And how they are going to get over that and how that sort of double reality is going to be reinforced is going to be part of the subtlety and effectiveness of the diplomacy here. Israel will not accept a open declaration that we have international controls, the Palestinians will not accept that it is only the United States involved as a third party and that there is not the wider legitimacy coming from Europe and the United Nations. And we're going to have to see whether there is enough subtlety on both sides to let that double reality or binocular perspective prevail. And I am glad to see that there are people here that are aware of the importance of this issue and will push it as it comes to the floor this summer.

Moderator: Do you think that it is realistic to think that the U.S. or the Israeli government intends to pull settlements out of the West Bank to allow for a real Palestinian state? Or do you think they will try to set up a phony state? If the latter is true should we say that the road map is a ruse?

Cohen: If you start with the question of the basic intentions of the cast of characters who are now running the parties involved, it would be hard to make the case with a straight face that the intentions are pure and the goal is to make Palestinian state without the impediment of Israeli settlements. But that is part of why I do not take the cynical approach to the road map. I wouldn't say to you it is not an appropriate approach to take, but it is not one that I take because I believe that it has taken the best out of what you could produce from this combination of Bush and Sharon and describes the process that can build momentum and incentives for the United States to actually take some steps in the right direction. I'm not so interested now in predicting probabilities. We get ourselves pretty depressed if we spend too much time doing that. If we are really active and clear in our advocacy and take advantage of the shock to certain forces that are not peace forces that comes from the actual existence of this road map, from the emergence of Abu-Mazen as prime minister, if we could take advantage of that, then we have a chance to make a difference. I'm more interested in that than in predictions of failure. Now, is it a ruse? It can only be a ruse if we let it be so. If we're not aware of the demands made in the road map, if we do not persist in there being a map, if we do not keep asking what is happening to them, then we will allow it to be a ruse and it will disappear from the earth like many other proposals. We should remember that Reagan made a plan in September of 1982 that lasted for about a week. So, its perfectly possible to build a scenario, even a convincing scenario, where nothing moves but I think that our job is more to build up the probability that something real will happen and that most of all the process will have started enough that we will be able to push in the following four years, the next President's term, or the next term of this President, that this be a central focus. I think that we are all aware of the fact that the outcome of what happens in Iraq whether or not it will turn out to be a mess, or whether or not it will turn out to actually have a somewhat representative, somewhat decent outcome is going to be the dominant foreign policy question. But underneath it we're simply going to let things slide into more and more violence between Israelis and Palestinians or are we going try to take what we can out of this and make something (positive) happen. It may not be a very radical perspective that I'm proposing, but its one that takes very seriously the need to stop the killing, stop the killing, STOP the killing.

Moderator: Dr. Cohen what I hear you saying is a cautious optimism, but a very slow road to progress. Is that a correct interpretation?

Cohen: I would say that if the administration simply moves at a slow pace toward a peaceful outcome or process, yes. But I don't think that is really possible. I think after a short time if they succeeded in the early phases they are going to want and need for their own political reasons something somewhat more dramatic and something that really shows the brink is on its way. And that is going to be where and when people like Brit Tzedek are going to terribly important to be able to support and push for just that kind of acceleration, which is not in May and probably not in June, but probably as early as August.

Moderator: What can we as American Jews do to help bring peace this week?

Cohen: Well as I said, I feel there is an opportunity and its not an easy one to plan for. It is (one) that the leading institutions of the community have faced. And there's a vacuum in the system that needs to be filled, as to who is speaking in a realistic and appropriate way about Israel and the Palestinians in the aftermath of the United States having gone to war in the heart of the Middle East. That is the question: Can we seize the mantle, at this point, of the peace forces? What does it require? It requires being out there more, it requires forcing themselves into the public eye, trying to build a common front with other peace organizations, it involves trying to get a perception that the opposite to the (organized Jewish) community's approach is not an anti-Semitic approach, but a pro-peace approach. These are things that need to be done across the country, even up in Montreal where its a very difficult thing to do. I think that if I'm not being pessimistic, its because I believe that something here has happened which we're not noticing, but which leaves a certain vacuum of credibility within the Jewish world. What needs to be said now is that over the last few years, ever since the second Intifadah began, the peace forces faced not only the burden of the anger of Jews against the Palestinians, but also the belief that we were the very unrealistic side, we were advocating something that simply couldn't happen. That burden of unrealism is now shifted. It was the unrealism of those in the community who thought the world could just tolerate more and more years of this incredible bloodletting and the building of settlements to fill more and more of the West Bank. I think that they've had a shock and we have to build from that shock.

Moderator: Do you think that the neo-conservatives in this administration Wolfowitz, Pearle, Abrams, Feith, Rumsfeld, and Cheney, many of who opposed Oslo in the past are serious about the road map? Or do you think that they will try to make sure that it dies a slow death like (the) Mitchell and Tenet (plans)?

Cohen: I would say first of all that the neo-conservatives are not as united about the road map issue as they were about the war in Iraq. Wolfowitz and some of the people in Cheney's office are actually favorable towards some real initiative on the Palestinian issue at this point. There are others who are dead set against. It's more of a mixed picture. Second thing I want to say is that the Defense department has just taken over a whole country. It is a pretty big job they have now, to make of that takeover of Iraq order out of chaos. That's going to keep them pretty busy and I don't think that the President is quite yet ready to give up on Secretary Powell where if he is stymied by them on this issue again, I don't know that he'd still be around to help the President into a second term. So I would say to you its not quite the same situation we faced a few months ago. There is some indication that Condaleeza Rice has been recruited to be favorable to the road map. She has said a few things, she did say that statement to AIPAC, she said it also at a closed conference at the Washington Institute, and the Washington Institute has been fighting the road map tooth and nail. So, I think the picture is a little more complicated. There is no question that there are determined people who will trip us up at any time they can, who will try very hard to make it a secondary issue and not one that engages the President directly, and who will be very against the kind of muscular diplomacy that will be necessary to make it work. All of that is true. I just think that it is not as monolithic as it was before this war became as complex as it is today.

Moderator: It seems that Brit Tzedek's natural constituency, are Jewish students, unaffiliated Jews. Do you agree? Do you have suggestions in terms of how to reach these groups, particularly those who chose not to affiliate who are by definition "hard to reach"? And what messages would appeal to these groups? Whether the settlements, the road map, or something else?

Cohen: I think that the general problem right now of many Jews is that they have a double alienation. They have an alienation from Israeli policy and an alienation from U.S. policy. And they're most comfortable simply not saying anything because they don't want to join the antagonist groups, but they can't bring themselves to be a part of the support groups. That is a pretty big group out there right now, and the question is can you give them a message that there is now an opportunity to do something which would both change the nature of the American role into something that stands for peace and self-determination as opposed to standing for war and for American control of the lives of the people of the region, and stands for an Israel which is opening up to the world, as opposed to an Israel which is creating a fortress again. There is something at that level, I don't want to at this moment make a comment on specifics, that is complicated depending on which audience and their sophistication of understanding. I do feel that there's more of a mode here of what it is suggesting about the role of Israel and the role of the United States in this world that is emerging after September 11 and after the war in Iraq. Is it a role that is suggesting a kind of "dominant by power" or is it suggesting that there can be some move in the direction of peace and justice. That is what I think you could do. If you could start making inroads into showing that there is a way of doing that you might be able to find that a lot of these people who are inaccessible because they're experiencing that contradiction between whom they want to be as Americans and as Jews and who they think they can be given the nature of the present moment. My hope is that you're going to be the ones who are able to make that point and who reach out and find that there are a lot of people like that in America. That's what I'm hoping.

Moderator: On behalf of Brit Tzedek I want to thank you. I want to remind everyone that on May 7th we are launching our campaign to Bring the Settlers Home. We are very excited about this grassroots mobilization that can make a difference. Our goal is to get thousands of signatures throughout the United States. And once again we want to thank you Dr. Cohen. Good night and Shalom!

Additional Q& A from Dr. Cohen

Question From Brookline, MA : I see that Phase 1 of the Roadmap calls for international support, including support from the Government of Israel, for rebuilding Palestinian institutions. But there doesn't seem to be a direct plan as to support for the Palestinian Authority in suppressing terrorism. Do you have any ideas for support of the (reformed) Palestinian Authority that will make the suppression of violence succeed?

Cohen: Suppression of violence on the side of the Palestinians is not a one-factor problem. Part one is convincing the Palestinian leadership that the American will is strongly committed. This can be done, not in one shot but with the Powell trip and the eventual visit of Bush. What would be critical is, any context in which Bush would make a commitment in front of Jews. Second, is the Arab states making it clear to Hamas that the terror game is in intermission now and stays there for six months to see what happens or else they are going to be drained of any money and Dahlan is going to have their support to suppress their actions. Third is that Israel allow the Palestinians to move around and breathe and get some money into their system. Fourth, is that Abu Mazen find a counterpart to Dahlan in Gaza for the West Bank and make it clear that he means business and will seek US help if a confrontation is the only way it can be handled. Tough business all in all.

Question From Chicago, IL: You indicated that making predictions about the likelihood of certain changes might only be a depressing exercise. There seems to be some many "ifs" about the possibilities of the Roadmap and you indicated that the ultimate key factor is the Bush Administration's will to push for a real implementation. How can we influence that? What factors are at work that we might have some, even small, influence over? Perhaps Brit Tzedek cannot have much influence abroad, but what might we try to accomplish here? How does the Brit Tzedek Call to Bring the Settlers Home petition drive fit into this complex equation? Any thoughts on that?

Cohen: Your focus on settlements is very important and appropriate. You need to face head on the pseudo-rights argument that Jews should be allowed to live anywhere and not be discriminated against by making the West Bank Judenrein. This false argument is still widely believed by Jews.

Question From Chicago, IL: Any further thoughts on how Brit Tzedek (and like-minded groups, e.g., APN) can use the "defeat" of the right on the roadmap to open up more discussion in both the Jewish community and in Congress? Who really knows about that "defeat" and how can it be publicized and explained to other American Jews, who have been led to believe that the Roadmap is a threat to Israel?

Cohen: Notice how AIPAC has had to say it is pleased to see the Road Map released - an admission of their failure to kill it. The key is to get Jews to articulate what they want for Israel and they are likely to say first of all no more terror. Ask them whether they think it has been fully stopped by application of force. Ask them whether they think it likely that it will stop without American involvement. Ask them whether they think under such circumstances it is smart for American Jews to try to undermine the American effort.

Question From SS :Regarding the" defeat" they have faced-Why do you not think this is not defeat, but a strategic "lower profile" planning and behavior, or the part of the American Jewish Right, to follow Sharon's plan for ruining, without losing US support?

Cohen: Yes they have back pedaled and are on the defensive let us keep backpedaling by getting Abu Mazen to keep talking peace and ending of the violence; by starting to slow down and stop Palestinian violence and by getting Abu Mazen to declare that these acts are undermining Palestinian hopes for the future. Be ready for the next debate: whether Abu Mazen has done enough if there is still some violence....Be ready for the hard right opposition to calm acceptance of the new reality.

Question From New York City: What do you foresee will result from Colin Powell's visit to the region? Do you think he can help the "diplomatic camp" of the White House win out over the strong-armed "Syria-next" camp?

Cohen: Powell will try to show he is still a major factor in American foreign policy by making some big splash on his trip if he can find an opening. Syria tough talk is a cry for help as much as a threat of action. I want to see us help keep Powell from imploding into irrelevance.

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