Panelists discuss future of Israeli-Palestinian peace process

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Experts discussed the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process at a panel at the Bancroft Hotel on Tuesday.

Hosted by the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, the panel featured Janine Zacharia, a Stanford University visiting lecturer and former Washington Post Jerusalem bureau chief, and Abraham Sofaer, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Former UC president Mark Yudof, a current campus law professor, moderated the event, which analyzed the most recent manifestation of the conflict and ways to move forward.

Zacharia and Sofaer agreed that the conflict in Gaza did not strongly affect the status quo of the conflict or push either side to negotiate.

Sofaer, a former legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State, said the Israeli government should have acted against Hamas immediately and needs to take a stronger stance.

“(Israel has) allowed an evil and a monstrous government that wants to destroy Israel to survive,” Sofaer said.

Yet Abdi Hassan, a UC Berkeley junior and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine who did not attend the panel, said Israel’s response was too strong, explaining that Israel has vast military resources in contrast to Hamas.

“You indiscriminately bomb (Gaza), a densely packed open-air prison … with the fourth-largest military that’s funded by (the) U.S.,” Hassan said. “Thousands have died. I’m sure if you ask any Palestinian, ‘too weak’ would be the last thing they would think.”

Thomas Duryea, a Berkeley resident who attended the lecture, said he wished the panel included more diverse opinions, including one from people representing the Palestinian side.

The speakers also said college students are disenchanted with Israel. According to Zacharia, this is a “warning to Israel that U.S. support is not guaranteed for generations to come.”

Danya Birnbaum, a UC Berkeley sophomore who attends Tikvah meetings and wasn’t at the panel, said it’s hard for this generation to remember what Israel represents.

“While I stand for Israel, in no way am I anti-Palestine,” Birnbaum said. “As Jewish people, we can’t lose sight. … It’s important, what (Israel) represents on a larger scale. (The Jewish people have) been fighting for like 70 years since we got it.”

The ASUC Senate voted last year to divest from companies affiliated with Israel’s military and indefinitely postponed a bill in September calling for the rejection of academic boycotts against Israeli academic institutions.

On peace negotiations, Sofaer explained that diplomats can’t tackle all the issues simultaneously and should take small steps. Zacharia, however, said it is difficult to negotiate the issues separately because they are so intertwined.

Panelists also discussed President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship — specifically, tensions over a potential deal with Iran and how other factors in the area such as ISIS affect Israel.

Contact Suhauna Hussain at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @suhaunah.