The two-week-old revolution in Egypt could affect Israel in several areas, but one of them shouldn’t be the peace process, according to Gershom Gorenberg.
“Whichever outcome there is with Egypt, Israel has a deep interest in reaching agreement with the Palestinian Authority,” the noted author and journalist said.
Nevertheless, Gorenberg, who will be speaking in Pittsburgh next week, warned that many Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, may use Egypt as an excuse not to move forward with peace talks, as he says they have with other external threats to the Jewish state.
He said the same of Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state, as well as the Iranian nuclear threat.
“When the Israeli government puts that front and center, it’s the same as, ‘Oh, there’s this crisis in Egypt, we can’t negotiate, or if there’s this crisis in Iran, ‘we can’t negotiate now,’ or any other of a number of excuses … He (Netanyahu) manufactures excuses,” said Gorenberg.
The author will speak Wednesday, Feb. 16, noon, at 837 William Pitt Union in a program sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh. That same day, he will appear at Temple Sinai at 7 p.m. in a program co-sponsored by J Street Pittsburgh, The Tikkun Olam Center for Jewish Social Justice of Temple Sinai, Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee, Congregation Dor Hadash and the Social Justice Committee of Temple Ohav Shalom. The program is free to the public.
Gorenberg is the author of “The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977,” which sheds new light on Israel’s post-1967 history and its relations with the United States. He’s a senior correspondent for The American Prospect and a former editor of the Jerusalem Report.
Gorenberg said Israel’s status with its Palestinian neighbors is too serious to be slowed down by excuses.
“It’s a very negative situation for Israel to be involved in,” he said, “ruling over the Palestinians, not having a clear border and having a large number of disenfranchised people under Israeli [control].”
He claimed the current Palestinian government headed by President Mahmoud Abbas is more committed to a peace settlement than Netanyahu, noting that the prime minister had the opportunity to establish a governing coalition following the last election with Tzipi Livni, leader of Kadima, the party that garnered the most votes in that race. He didn’t, Gorenberg said, because Livni would have insisted on real power sharing as well as serious peace progress.
“I know this is a very uncomfortable thing for people to deal with,” he said, “but the asymmetry is that the current Israeli government is less interested in reaching an agreement than the current Palestinian government.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)