“Iran’s current President has a very strong ideological position with respect to Israel and frankly I just don’t see that changing”, commented Professor Shai Feldman following his address on Middle Eastern policy and the Iranian threat.
Feldman has an impressive list of academic credentials regarding the Middle East, which render him a leading analyst and commentator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Director of the Crown Centre for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University, a member of the Board of Director’s at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a former member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.
The address itself was both considered and enlightening, though not as controversial as was anticipated. The message, which was of hope for a lasting and realistic peace was uncharacteristically objective, particularly given the topic.
His call for peace also entailed a strong condemnation of “the Bush administration [, which] failed in its attempts to move the parties closer to peace.” He further criticised the US for the failed attempts at democratisation of countries in the region, an obvious swipe at the continuing war in Iraq.
The bulk of his message was one of optimism for peace, and he firmly believes that both Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are “committed to peace.” The Hamas-Israeli ceasefire, which is currently still intact, also has a positive effect on other extremist groups in the region. Furthermore, Feldman cited that the talks between Israel and Syria, which took place earlier this year an were chaperoned by Turkey, were the first in over two years.
He repeatedly restated his confidence in the “Arab Initiative” (formerly the “Saudi Initiative”); a simplistic plan initially put forward by the Saudi Crown Prince, the gist of the plan was that if Israel withdraws to the original 1967 border lines, then the Arab countries would integrate Israel into their activities and offer them a normalisation of relations.
Furthermore, Prof Feldman emphasised the fact that with the Arab Initiative in place; both Israel and the Arab states can concentrate on domestic issues without worrying about instability and insecurity. He also went on to say that it was imperative to gain support for the initiative at all levels, particularly from the USA, the United Nations and the European Union.
His one contention, however, was over Iran, whom he believes needs to be “contained. A growing number of countries realise that Iran is a threat…Iran do not necessarily need to be involved in peace solutions.”