Two local scholars discuss the hard issues between Israelis and Palestinians.
ith great caution, two local scholars who
closely study the Middle East situation — a
Christian professor and a rabbi — analyzed
the basic issues and discussed what they are looking for
that might signal the possibility of restarting peace
negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Rabbi Sherwin Wine of Birmingham Temple,
founder of Humanistic Judaism and well-known lec-
turer, discussed the situation with University of
Michigan-Dearborn professor Ron Stockton, who
teaches courses on the Middle East.
The discussion evolved into three conversations with
the Jewish News this summer, and then again last week,
to target the most important issues and misconceptions
affecting a possible peace.
What possibilities and hurdles do you see post-Arafat?
Rabbi Wine began with two reasons why President
Bush will be very interested in Middle East peace nego-
tiations — especially after the death of Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat, who was seen as an obstacle to
peace by America and Israel. As the war in Iraq contin-
ues, the Israeli-Palestinian situation presents a way for
the U.S. administration to divert attention from the
war and give it a public relations victory, he said.
Stockton, in a separate interview, laid out the issues
University ofMichigan-Dearborn professor Ron Stockton makes a point to Rabbi Sherwin Wine of the
that need to be addressed for a peace process to restart.
Birmingham Temple, while in the rabbi's office. A portrait of Rabbi Wine is on the wall.
For America to move toward a peace process, we
must have a high-level negotiator who would go to the
a difference," Stockton said.
Middle East with the prestige of the president [behind
"The person who would probably unite the
Rabbi Wine thought differently. "Powell failed," he
him]," he said. "He or she would come up with a set-
Palestinians because of his integrity, credibility and
said. "Bush listens to [Condoleezza] Rice, so she's
tlement based on issues outlined in the road map for
popular base is Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five
preferable. If Bush wants a feather in his cap, he'll
peace." These issues include an end of the occupation,
life sentences in Israel because of his leadership of the
an independent Palestinian state, a freeze of settlements arrange a preliminary peace. But he must take a more
moderate line and talk to the Palestinians to gain [a
and cessation of violence.
Both Rabbi Wine and Stockton said the Israelis
Ending the occupation implies the 1967
would probably release Barghouti. "If Israel wants
Bush also can restore an alliance with
peace, they will have to free him," Wine said.
boundaries, he added. "Obviously, that border
powers he alienated, which is what
will not be restored, but it is the basis of nego-
But, Rabbi Wine favors Abbas as the best candidate
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is telling
tiation or the Palestinians can't view the
— "if he can stay alive," Rabbi Wine said.
him, Rabbi Wine said. "It's a face-saving way
process as credible. And the Palestinians must
Though Barghouti is regarded as a moderate, he was
of getting back together with Europe, which is
make an unequivocal commitment to negoti-
involved in acts of terror. Abbas has the strongest
also frightened by the Muslim world."
ations with Israel in a non-violent context."
record of opposing terrorist attacks, Rabbi Wine said,
Stockton said he is pessimistic in the short
though he acknowledged that Abbas may seem too
Who is the best Palestinian candidate?
run because neither side trusts the other and,
moderate and may not have the popular support, like
"All the major candidates are seriously com-
unlike Rabbi Wine, he thinks, "America will
mitted to the negotiating process," Stockton
probably not play a strong enough role to
said. 'And all are effective negotiators. The old
Is the two-state solution safe for Israel?
make negotiations happen." Strong enough,
In earlier conversations with Rabbi Wine, before
Stockton explained, means making sure Sharon is corn- guard appears to be mobilizing behind Mahmoud
Abbas, the logical choice. He's experienced, able and
- mitted to the negotiation process and the U.S. will
Arafat's death, he expressed his concerns for a two-state
was the first [Palestinian] prime minister under Arafat
engage the Palestinians.
solution and the militarization of a new Palestinian
and a key negotiator in Oslo."
state. While he sees Arafat's death as an opportunity for
"The president's statement that there had to be a
The problem is he has no popular base and many
creating a Palestinian state for long-term peace, Rabbi
Palestinian democracy before there could be serious
consider him corrupt because of financial deal-
negotiation is a very bad sign," Stockton said. So is the
Wine still is concerned about militarization of a new
ings, Stockton said. Many consider him too close to
resignation of Secretary of State Colin Powell "because
Powell would have stayed if he thought he could make
"Israel cannot accept a militarized Palestine," he said.