AIPAC Weighs Obama's Mideast Plan

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President Obama will address the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday. AIPAC is the country's largest pro-Israel lobby, and Obama's remarks come just days after he sought to lay out a vision for a new Middle East. Host Liane Hansen speaks with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who now serves as vice president and director of foreign policy at The Brookings Institute.


Earlier today, we spoke with Martin Indyk. He's the vice president and director of foreign policy at Brookings, and he previously served as U.S. ambassador to Israel. He sais President Obama hasn't really indicated what his administration's role will be in advancing the peace process.

Dr. MARTIN INDYK (Vice President/Director, Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution): I think that there is the big hanging question of once you've laid this out, what is the next step? And, you know, the president didn't announce that the secretary of state was going to go out and launch a new effort. He hasn't replaced his special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, who resigned. And I think that's regrettable.

I think there actually needs to be an effort to resurrect the process, and that the president laying out these two basic principles about borders and security has laid a foundation for launching, relaunching that effort. But I think that at this point, he's not very hopeful that that can be done, given what he's dealing with on the Palestinian side.

Abu Mazen has joined with Hamas. Hamas is committed to a one state solution; that is replacing Israel, not living alongside Israel. And on the Israeli side, he sees a prime minister who is deeply constrained by his right-wing coalition.

HANSEN: Given the public uprising we've seen in the Arab world, is now the moment for deal-making between Israelis and Palestinians?

Dr. INDYK: I think that there's a lot of turmoil clearly around Israel's borders, which makes Israel loathe to take risks for peace. There's a lot of preoccupation, understandable preoccupation, by Arab leaders with their own streets. And that is going to make it difficult. But, come September, there's going to be an election in Egypt. And political leaders in Egypt are going to play the demagogue; they're going to play to the crowd. The crowd is antagonistic towards Israel because of the failure to resolve the Palestinian problem.

And so one can imagine the circumstance: The Palestinians taking their lessons from their brothers, start to demonstrate peacefully in larger and larger numbers. We saw them coming across the border last week. And then the Egyptian parliament comes in and adopts an anti-Israel stance. And then the president of the United States vetoes the UN Security Council resolution. The whole thing could become very explosive.

HANSEN: Martin Indyk is the vice president and director of Foreign Policy at Brookings. Thank so much for coming in.

Dr. INDYK: Thanks, Liane.

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