Former U.S. ambassador to Israel and key Middle East peace negotiator Martin S. Indyk said he had initially planned to talk about the effects of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. But the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East caused him to alter the course of his speech.
A standing room only crowd at the Slifka Center heard Indyk’s speech entitled “Israel and the Intifadah After September 11”, which was the inaugural lecture in the Jeffrey and Susan Stern Lectureship for Middle East and Israeli Affairs.
Patricio Zambrano ’05 said he came to learn more about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The information that the former ambassador can give someone like me, who has little access to the reality experienced by those actually involved, is very enriching,” Zambrano said. “It inspires your responsibility.”
In Indyk’s search to discover “what will be”, the two-term ambassador examined the roles of three important players in the ongoing crisis — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, U.S. President George W. Bush, and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.
Indyk said that in order to understand Sharon, one must understand that there are three aspects of his character which are all “competing for his heart and mind” — Sharon as a general, Sharon as a politician, and Sharon as a prime minister.
As a general, Sharon values the efficacy of force in stopping the violence and terrorism that has exploded in the Middle East. As a politician, he must delicately balance the desires of left-wing Israeli leaders, who want to resolve the violence through negotiations with Arafat, with the desires of right-wing leaders, who wish to use force. As a prime minister, he understands the strategic value of a close U.S. relationship and is willing to take pragmatic steps, including the possible creation of a Palestinian state and the freezing of settlements in the West Bank.
Indyk said that the “moment of truth” for Sharon’s strategy is approaching. The use of force by the Israeli army combined with massive international pressure may ultimately force Arafat to act.
In describing George W. Bush’s interpretation of the crisis, Indyk said that it was considerably less complicated.
“George W. Bush sees the world in a Texas cowboy way, particularly when it comes to this conflict,” Indyk said. “There are good guys, and there are bad guys.”
Indyk said that George W. Bush sees Arafat as a “bad guy,” and will not deal with him until he arrests terrorists and stops to the violence.
In his analysis of Arafat, Indyk said that the Palestinian leader has been a presence on the international stage for four decades, yet nobody understands what he is about.
“He wakes up on any given morning, tests which way the wind is blowing, and decides on a course of action,” Indyk said.
Moreover, Indyk said that Arafat is “all tactics and no strategy” and is prone to miscalculation due to his “purposeful creation of a fantasy world.”
In a personal encounter he had with Arafat, Indyk said that Arafat avoided responsibility for the bombing of an Israeli discotheque by blaming it on the Mossad, Israel’s secret police agency.
“You know that’s not true,” Indyk replied to Arafat.