The lecture by the newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Great Britain, Ron Prosor, was sponsored by the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations, the Israel Studies Program, Stand with Us, and the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.
"We have a saying in the Jewish tradition that anyone who teaches us something new is called a rabbi. And I learned something new today." Professor Judea Pearl
This article was first published on Feb. 28, 2007, in The Daily Bruin.
By Lucy Benz-Rogers
DISCUSSING COUNTRIES such as Israel, Syria and Iran, newly appointed Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor shared his frank analysis and personal experience in the region at a lecture on Middle Eastern politics Monday.
Prosor began by stressing that it is important for people outside the Middle East to understand and pay attention to its problems in order to gauge the global effects of changes in the region and to make informed policy decisions.
He said it is also important for the world community to understand the unique geopolitical position of Israel.
"(Israel is) on the frontier of encountering problems that Western democracies have not encountered. ... We sometimes feel alone," Prosor said.
One of the main issues Prosor addressed is Iran's role in the Middle East. He discussed at length how a nuclear Iran changes the political scene in the region, and how this issue should be addressed.
"The Iranian threat would change the strategic environment in the Middle East," Prosor said.
During the question-and-answer portion of the lecture there was discussion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's past comments threatening Israel. Ahmadinejad has been quoted as saying, "Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation," and that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
When asked by an audience member about the Iranian threat and how seriously Ahmadinejad's comments against Israel should be taken, Prosor said he believes Ahmadinejad's threats should be taken very seriously.
He said he believes the Iranians are adept at overcoming restrictions and obstacles they encounter, such as economic sanctions.
"The Iranians are very, very sophisticated," Prosor said. "It is obvious that the Iranians are master tacticians," he added later in the lecture.
UCLA computer science Professor Judea Pearl called Prosor's analysis of Ahmadinejad the most enlightening part of the lecture.
"We have a saying in the Jewish tradition that anyone who teaches us something new is called a rabbi. And I learned something new today," he said.
Prosor said he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and added that a large portion of the Israeli population is also in favor of this option.
He listed a number of obstacles to overcome before this can be a reality, including a need for more open communication between the two sides and the recognition of the state of Israel from Palestinian groups such as Hamas.
"What dialogue do I conduct with a side who does not recognize my right to exist?" he asked. "We know that the only way forward is to really talk to people, but you still need, as the song says, the bare necessities."
The lecture was sponsored by the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations, the Israel Studies Program, Stand with Us and the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.
Kelly Trombley, a second-year international development studies student who attended the lecture, said she enjoyed hearing the perspective of a foreign diplomat as opposed to someone from the United States.
Rebecca Byerly, a visiting graduate of American University who was also present, said the lecture raised many concerns for her about the future of Middle Eastern politics.
"It seems the situation really is as bleak as it appears, the threat of Iran is real, and peace negotiations with Syria seem bleak," Byerly said.