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The Baghdad-Jerusalem Connection Study Guide

How are the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Arab conflict interrelated? Has the Iraq war made Israel more or less secure? Does the road to peace go from Baghdad to Jerusalem or from Jerusalem to Baghdad? Is an Israeli-Palestinian peace pact within reach or an illusion?

Overall Question

The introduction to this Focus section says that the writers present “varying political perspectives.” In what way are they varied? Are they also similar? Is there a perspective that is not represented?

Bridge over Troubled Waters – Dennis Ross

1. Ross says that “it is vital we do not fail in Iraq.” What would failing or succeeding look like? What kind of interests are at stake (American political interests, inter-ethnic relations, moral principles, human well-being, others)?

2. After outlining the dangers of the current situation, Ross says, “But rather than dwelling on all that can go wrong…it is time to focus what can go right if we help shape events.” Do you believe that America can help shape events at this juncture?

3. Do you believe peace is possible within the next ten years? Ever?

  • In situations of conflict (think of one that occurred in your class, family, workplace or community), do you tend to:

a. Find someone to blame and focus on how bad he/she is

b. Disconnect, emotionally and/or practically

c. Seek to define that which is within your power to improve the situation and do it.

  • Are all of these legitimate responses, or are some acceptable and others not so?
  • Is there a hierarchy here that spans from “sometimes acceptable” to “always the best response if you can manage it”?
  • Does the appropriate response depend on the situation?
  • Do you have a tendency to react in a certain way, a “default” reaction, and if you do, what can you learn about yourself from that?
  • As it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are you an “a,” “b,” or “c,” and which do you want to be?

Leaderless – Michael Oren

1. Oren indicates that Ariel Sharon is a stronger leader than Abu Mazen when it comes to the ability to confront opponents. At the same time, he says that moderate Palestinians need to act quickly, as Sharon is “76 years old and not in best of health.” He argues that Sharon is uniquely able to bring peace because he ‘bears a moral authority” that he doubts the next generation of Israeli leaders possess.

  • Is violence against one’s own people justified in order to enforce the rule of law?
  • If the answer is yes, what limits need to be set on violence in upholding the law, as, for example, in removing Jewish settlers from Gaza, or disarming Palestinian extremists?

Openings – Naomi Chazan

1. Do you agree with Chazan’s assertion that the “path to stability runs…from Jerusalem to Bagdad” rather than the other way around?

2. Compare Chazan’s way of describing Abu Mazen to that of Yagil Henkin. See also the way Ross and others refer to the Palestinian leader. Overall, what are your impressions of Abu Mazen from these articles? What are your concerns about him? To what extent are you influenced by your attitude towards the Palestinians as a whole? By Arafat’s legacy?

3. Chazan says that each of the three parties––Israel, the Palestinians, and America––offer a glimmer of hope for peace that it is up to us to make it happen. What can you do to help “make it happen”?

Mired in Mistrust – Yagil Henkin

1. Do you agree with Henkin’s statement that “We cannot expect a serious movement toward resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until both sides are equally exhausted from fighting and the Palestinians abandon the notion that armed struggle will eventually force Israel into submission”?

2. The overall tone of Henkin’s article differs from the others. How would you describe that difference?

Start at the End of the Road – Ami Ayalon

1. Ayalon disparages the strategy of the Oslo process which deferred confronting the hard issues in favor of initiating a series of trust building measures. Instead, he advocates beginning with the toughest issues. Do you agree that starting from the end is the best approach?

2. Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh have collected almost half a million Israeli and Palestinian signatures in support of their peace plan. Do you think such efforts can make a difference in bringing about a peaceful resolution of the conflict? Explain.