PEORIA -- One of the most provocative and controversial speakers the Peoria Area World Affairs Council has presented in recent years, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, co-author with Stephen Walt of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, offered a pessimistic analysis of the future of Israel and the Middle East.
Israel must adopt the 'two-state solution' with the Palestinians having their own country, or it may not survive, he said.
He spoke June 18 with a powerful, riveting, eye-opening 2-hour talk. He said President Barack Obama's two-state solution is the only workable future for the region, but expressed skepticism that it will happen.
One of the reasons is the Israel Lobby in the U.S., which he compared with other powerful interest groups such as the AARP, the Farm Lobby and the NRA. This lobby, composed of several organizations, supports Israel whose politicians have oppressed the Palestinians for decades.
"I wish somebody could tell me what the happy ending is without a two state solution," he said.
"I am skeptical that Obama can achieve this goal because the Israel lobby is likely to make it difficult or impossible for him to put pressure on Israel. I hope I'm proved wrong," he said.
Every US president since 1967 has opposed Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, he said, "yet no president has put pressure on Israel to stop building settlements." That's because of the Israel lobby, he said.
The lobby's power can be seen in the recent situation of Charles Freeman, forced to withdraw from the National Intelligence Council because he questioned the US 'special relationship' with Israel, he said. Obama didn't stand up for him. "That's not encouraging," he said.
"During the campaign (Obama) pandered to the lobby and was silent during the Gaza massacre, he said.
While Obama has promoted the two state solution, "talk is cheap," he said.
But Israel's future as a nation depends on a two state solution, he said.
Without that, he said. only three alternatives can be envisioned.
1. Israel takes over all the territory for a Greater Israel, with a democracy and equal rights for all, and will be outnumbered by Palestinians and lose political control.
2. Most Palestinians are expelled in a type of ethnic cleansing, unacceptable to the world.
3. Apartheid occurs, with Palestinians living in enclaves like the former situation in South Africa, also unacceptable.
"What future do the opponents of a two state solution envision?" he asked. "It's the best alternative."
Israel receives up to $4.5 billion in foreign aid annually from the US, he said, and could be pressured to come to terms with the Palestinians.
There will be "spoilers" on both sides, and Palestinians will have to control their extremists, stop terrorism, and recognize Israel as part of the deal, he said.
But a lack of leadership on both sides makes a deal politically difficult, he said.
While world leaders don't care about the Palestinians, the world public does care, and their anger fuels terrorism, he said."The Arab masses are angry with their leaders." A two state solution would help tamp down that anger, he said.
"We're not talking about equity and justice" for the Palestinians, he said. "What has happened to the Palestinians is one of the great crimes of modern times," but a deal would "be better than the present situation" of occupation.
Why doesn't the Israel lobby move toward a two state solution? He had no answer, except to say "Jews don't think strategically," and typically hope the future will take care of itself.
He and his co-author wrote the book to stimulate discussion in the US, and it has done that, he said.
The Jewish Federation of Peoria supplied a handout with criticism of the book and links to websites.
-- Elaine Hopkins