The survival of Israel and the avoidance of war was the focus of a lecture last night given by Tel Aviv University Prof. Meir Litvak.
“The debate is not whether peace should be reached in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Litvak said. “The debate is what the price of peace is and the way to achieve peace.”
Litvak said the psychology of a small country like Israel is a mindset Americans might have difficulty understanding.
“Israelis feel that they cannot afford to lose a war,” said Litvak. “Because their first defeat would be their last defeat.” Litvak added Israel would only have one chance to survive a war with such a small population.
Explaining Israel’s choices in achieving peace, Litvak said the choices are not appealing to him. Israel could continue the present situation and wait for a miracle, but the cost of bloodshed would be high as war would destroy the economy and undermine the global status of Israel, he said.
Reaching an interim settlement, imposing a foreign solution or building a wall to separate Palestinians and Israelis are other methods that Litvak proposed for peace.
When asked about the impact war in Iraq would have on the peace process in Israel, Litvak said a short war with and the quick removal of Saddam Hussein could greatly improve the peace process.
If a war with Iraq is long with many casualties, Litvak said the repercussions of Arab opinion of the United States and Israel would shift negatively.
Litvak also gave his assessment of the Arab world and their attitude towards the peace process.
“I believe that although many Arab leaders dislike Israel, they dislike war even more,” Litvak said. “The Middle Eastern poverty makes people realize that the socioeconomic trend will prevail if no peaceful solution can be found.”
Litvak, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies in Tel Aviv, earned his doctorate in modern Shi’i history and Palestinian politics at Harvard University.
“This type of lecture can be controversial, but in the nature of controversy in an academic setting, (it) is more positive and fruitful than the nature of controversy for the sake of debate,” Benjamin Berger, the event organizer said.
The Jewish Lawyers Association and Hillel sponsored the lecture.