At Dahan Lecture, Israel’s Fateful Choices to be Considered

Ambassador Dennis Ross

Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Pikesville will hold the 6th annual Dahan Lecture on May 7. Each year the event features discussions with experts in Israeli politics and world relations, and in past years hosted late journalist Charles Krauthammer, lawyer and academic Alan Dershowitz and retired Israeli politician Natan Sharansky.

This year, the lecture will feature Ambassador Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, authors of the forthcoming book “Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny.”

Ross, a former advisor to four U.S. presidents, is also counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), said the reelection of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unsurprising.

“Netanyahu has the support he has because most Israelis, even those who didn’t vote for him, believe the country is doing well,” Ross said. “There’s a strong sense that he has been very successful internationally, at least diplomatically. He’s able to say very clearly that those who try to isolate Israel are the ones who can’t succeed. There’s a sense that now is not the time to take a risk.”

Along with Makovsky, a Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at WINEP, Ross began writing “Fateful Choices” over a year ago. Even after Netanyahu’s narrow reelection, Ross believes the questions posed by the book are as relevant as ever.

“In the past we’ve seen Israeli leaders who made big decisions that were hard decisions and in some cases went against the grain of who they had been,” Ross said. “The book outlines this by creating four profiles of Israeli leaders — who they were, how they evolved, why they came to make the decision they did.”

The leaders outlined in “Fateful Choices” are Israel Prime Ministers David Ben- Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yhitzak Rabin and Ariel Sharon.

Netanyahu will make a series of tough decisions during his upcoming term, among them determining how much of the West Bank Israel will annex, and how to go about doing it.

As former ambassador to Israel, Ross helped create the concept of settlement blocks and swaps, meaning the annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel were done by way of a deal with Arabs. Ross believes that if Israel continues to annex areas in the West Bank unilaterally, its status as a Jewish democratic state could be compromised.

“Once you start annexing unilaterally, you’re on a road to one state for two peoples. It will become very difficult for Israelis to separate from Palestinians. Palestinians will have a mantra, you already see it: one person, one vote. Equal rights,” said Ross. “In terms of Israel’s Jewish democratic character, that will be very hard to sustain in the context of one state for two people. It will actually be impossible to sustain one state for two peoples.”

Ross said the book also looks into how the U.S. has been helpful to Israel throughout its history. U.S. Currently, President Donald Trump and his administration are close to releasing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and Ross believes it would be smart for the president to expect that the Arabs will not agree to it.

“If the administration goes along with the idea that there ought to be some penalty on the Palestinians for saying no, you also don’t want to lose the possibility of somehow being able to pull the Arabs back in later,” Ross said.

The Dahan Lecture will run from 7:45-9 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

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