Sunday, April 5, 2009

Doha Debates: Time to get tough on Israel--play by play action

Debate held at Georgetown University

Motion: This House believes it's time for the US administration to get tough on Israel.

Michael Scheuer, founder and former head of the CIA's Bin Laden tracking unit, supported the motion by mentioning that the new [Obama] administration needs to break ties with both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No nation as a right to exist. Israel is the most arrogant and treacherous of US allies. He also commented that democracy building is a silly foreign policy goal that the US should not be pursuing. Countries have a right to defend themselves; they don't have a right to exist.

Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, spoke against the motion. He mentioned that one should not assume that radical organizations will disappear should the US choose to get tough with Israel. The US needs to smartly support Israel. The biggest threat comes from Iran.

Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset and a senior member of the Labour Party, also spoke in favour of the motion. The US must get tougher with Israel, but not indifferent. He commented that the relationship between the US and Israel is like a parent who doesn't know how to say no to a child.

Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, also spoke against the motion. He said that the US should not single out Israel as this will weaken Israel's security. He supported US engagement with Syria, Iran, and Hamas. Mr. Dershowitz did recognize that Arabs in Israel do face discrimination. However, they are better treated than Arabs anywhere in the world.

During the question and answer session, after Mr. Gold mentioned that he was not for the 1967 boundaries should there be negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, Mr. Berg rebutted on why the Palestinians would not be willing to come forward. Mr. Gold replied that the demographics have changed in the West Bank.

Mr. Scheuer argued that both Messrs. Dershowitz and Gold are arguing for the status-quo. He also said that the US is under threat by others in the world by supporting Israel.

Mr. Gold quoted an editor-in-chief of a London based Arabic newspaper that the biggest threat to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region comes from Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons(--not Israel).

A Canadian student, Kelly Spitz from Toronto, asked a question about the US needing to improve its international reputation. Both Dershowitz and Gold mentioned that voters in western democracies have elected pro-Israeli governments. Mr. Gold boldly declared, "And the Prime Minister of Canada is the strongest supporter of Israel in the world!"

Mr. Scheuer said that the US should make them grow up by stopping support for Israel. The US has no business building democracies around the world.

Hopefully, the Doha Debates will have video (March 25, 2009) on its website.

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