Guest Professor Speaks on Israel, Middle East

Guest Professor Speaks on Israel, Middle East

Photo by Danielle Roth, Daily Bruin

Monday's talk by Shlomo Aronson, a political science professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies and Israel Studies Program.

Ruling over Palestinians is morally unacceptable, and therefore, giving up parts of the West Bank is morally and psychologically necessary.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Ravi Doshi, Daily Bruin contributor

IN A LECTURE Monday, Shlomo Aronson, a political science professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, engaged his audience in a discussion about the position of Israel in the contemporary Middle East.

Addressing Israel's geographical and political location in the mainly Arab region, Aronson spoke about the country's relationship with the surrounding areas, such as Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

At the beginning of his lecture, Aronson reminded the audience that his analysis was being presented from an Israeli point of view.

He discussed Israel's conflict with Lebanon and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 and why Israeli troops were unable to neutralize Hezbollah. Aronson said he partially attributes this to Hezbollah's use of civilian neighborhoods as strategic bases.

"(Israel) was constrained in our ability to take care of Hezbollah because they were hiding in civilian neighborhoods," Aronson said of the Israeli Defense Force's inability to achieve its objective.

"Israel is operating under the rules prescribed by the international community, and (Hezbollah) knows this," he said.

He also said "there is a limit to Israeli patience" in dealing with threats to Israel, but did not specify how this might affect Israel's actions.

Aronson discussed his views of the Golan Heights, which has historically been a contested region between Israel and Syria. Though the region has been part of Israel since 1967, Syria still considers it occupied territory.

In order to achieve a lasting peace with Syria, Aronson advocated the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Golan Heights, an option which he said is being discussed in some Israeli circles.

Aronson said a similar peace had been created between Israel and Egypt, after Israeli troops were withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula in 1979.

But many Israelis oppose a withdrawal from the Golan Heights because they consider the area to be strategically vital for Israeli security and because many Israelis are currently living in the region.

"Is such an arrangement with Syria possible? From an Israeli domestic point of view, this would be very unpopular with Israelis," Aronson said. "(But) I am very much in favor of such a deal. I think it will take courage."

Aronson also spoke about Israel's relationship with the Palestinians.

In 2005, Israel, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, began to disengage its troops from the Gaza Strip. Sharon's decision was highly controversial, but Aronson said he still supported the move, and also said he is in favor of at least a partial withdrawal from the West Bank.

He said, however, that the situation and relations became much more complicated politically after Hamas, a Palestinian political party, won the elections in the respective territories.

"Our attitude towards the Palestinian question is one of lengthy patience," Aronson said.

"Ruling over Palestinians is morally unacceptable, and therefore, giving up parts of the West Bank is morally and psychologically necessary," he added.

Steven Babcock, a first-year Middle Eastern and North African studies student, attended the lecture and said he found Aranson's views on the Middle East to be insightful.

"The general logic of his analysis was very interesting. He brought up some points I hadn't thought about," Babcock said.

Vivian Hecht, a first-year bioengineering student, also attended the lecture, and said she found Aranson's analysis of Syria and the Golan Heights to be interesting, but fair.

"(Aronson) had an inherent bias towards Israel, and he acknowledged that. However, I don't think this bias obscured his analysis (of the issues)," Hecht said.

Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2007