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Intelligence Squared Debate

The best chance for peace between Israel and Palestine is for Uncle Sam to butt out

Is it surprising that the Israelis and Palestinians are still unable to come to some sort of agreement? After all if the adjudicator in a mediation is firmly on your side why bother to concede anything to the enemy? Conversely, why accept anything proposed by the adjudicator if you know his affections are biased towards the other side?

We know America’s neutrality is hopelessly compromised on this issue and it doesn’t pretend otherwise. Say something against Israel in the run-up to the US presidential elections and you won’t become president. And since that’s not going to change, the best thing one can hope is for America to simply withdraw from the peace process.

Or is it? Some have faith that Washington can be persuaded to adopt a more flexible and even-handed stance – that it can free itself from the influence of the hard-liners and be responsive to more liberal voices: the voice of the Jewish American lobby group J-Street, for example, whose president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, is one of the participants in this debate. For if America were not involved – if the most important global playmaker were excluded or pulled out of the negotiating process – then negotiations would become a charade; the power to force through compromises and enforce them will have gone. Uncle Sam may be a troublesome relative, but you’ll get nowhere without him.

Speakers for the motion:
Mustafa Barghouti
William Sieghart

Speakers against the motion:
Jeremy Ben-Ami
Roger Cohen

Chair:
Jonathan Freedland

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