Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
March 11, 2010 - 1:00am

An audience of more than a hundred students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Corcoran Commons Heights Room at Boston College on February 22, 2010 to hear a panel discussion on relations between Israel and the United States. Speaking were ATFP senior fellow Hussein Ibish; Shai Feldman, director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University; and Aaron David Miller, a former state department analyst and negotiator, now a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Miller began the discussion with an overview of the basis of the US-Israel special relationship. He said Israel's deep ties with the United States were based on multiple factors, including history, culture, a western sense of responsibility towards Jews following World War II, and the widespread perception of shared values with Israel in much of American society. He listed six distinct components that ensured that the special relationship is no longer debated but is established, but he noted also that the relationship while unshakable need not and should not be exclusive. Feldman followed with a presentation that added specifics to Miller's broad overview, repeatedly returning to the deep ties between the Israeli and American defense and national security establishments. Feldman also said that there are three distinct governments within the present Israeli cabinet: the "Barak government," which agrees with the Obama administration that peace with the Palestinians is achievable and essential; the "Lieberman government," which does not believe a peace agreement is either necessary or achievable; and the "Netanyahu government," which tends to serve as a balance between the two wings and a "referee." Feldman emphasized that Palestinians and the Arab states had allowed Prime Minister Netanyahu to remain ambiguous about his commitment to peace by appearing to be the parties who "said no."

Ibish focused on the Palestinian angle to the special relationship between Israel and the United States. He agreed with Miller and Feldman that their relationship was based on multiple factors, including a perception of shared values, and that it is neither sensible nor possible for Palestinians and their allies to seek to overturn the US-Israel alliance. He said Palestinian leaders had long recognized this, and had decided to try to find ways to leverage the special relationship to help accomplish Palestinian national goals. Ibish said this was possible because the Palestinian-Israeli relationship is not zero sum, but can and should focus on the mutually necessary goal of a two state peace agreement. In this context, Ibish said, Palestinians can try to find ways of using the US special relationship with Israel to promote this goal, since the United States is the only country which Israel trusts and which has real leverage with the Israeli government.

The event was sponsored by an impressively broad coalition including the University’s Islamic civilizations and societies program, the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, the College of Arts and Sciences and the department of political science, the Jewish studies program, the Arab Students Association, Al-Noor, the University’s undergraduate journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, the Boston College Coalition for Israel, the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Student Association, and Hillel of Boston College.


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