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WORLD POLICY ON AIR

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Alon Ben-Meir: Mediating the Nuclear Impasse

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir Iran’s insistence on enriching uranium in defiance of three UN Security Council resolutions, combined with a bevy of antagonistic threats aimed at Israel’s existence has created an explosive recipe that may well precipitate a horrifying regional conflagration. For Iran’s own best interests, its contentious leaders would be well advised to tone down their anti-Israeli threats, which have not been taken lightly thus far, and find a diplomatic solution to Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. The recent Israeli air force exercises and American naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf, which were countered by Iran’s test-firing of a variety of missiles, have only heightened an already tense atmosphere. It is now critical to look at who might be in a position to defuse the tension and restore some stability to a volatile region already battered by a devastating war in Iraq. At this point, Turkey has made itself well positioned geopolitically to play such a significant role. The fact that the Bush administration has shifted policy after nearly three decades and agreed to participate in the international talks with Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva may well open the door for future direct talks to be facilitated by the Turks.

Alon Ben-Meir: Israeli-Syrian Negotiations

Dr. Alon Ben-MeirBy all accounts, the Israeli-Syrian indirect negotiations through Turkish mediation are going well, and the fact that a fourth round of talks is scheduled for the end of July suggests that both sides expect to make further progress. The reports from Damascus and Ankara, however, indicating that Syria will not enter into direct negotiations with Israel before the advent of new American administration show an obstructive apprehension on the part of the Syrian government. Indeed, Damascus should not only agree to direct negotiations with Israel—as Turkish officials strongly recommend—but time has come for it to make a bold move toward the Israelis. A high level meeting, for example, between Israel and Syria can change overnight the dynamic of their negotiations and dramatically increase the Bush administration's stakes in its successful outcome.

David A. Andelman: The Dalai Lama vs. Palestine?

David A. Andelman, EditorSOUTHAMPTON, NY—For many American Jews there is the apparent moral conundrum—how do you support Tibet (the Dalai Lama) over China without supporting Palestine over Israel? Simple. In this equation, Israel is the underdog—at least when it comes up against the combined might of the Arab world and the (real or imagined) nuclear power of Iran just around the corner. I'm not saying that this is an equation that I can even entertain. Still, this was the nature of part of the discussion around the dinner table Saturday night at Louise MacBain's place in Southampton. Louise, who three years ago launched the extraordinary Global Creative Leadership Summit and called together a few of us for the weekend to brainstorm this Fall's session, invited a couple of high-powered investment types to join us for dinner on Saturday. Both, with their wives, happen to be committed Zionists, though in deference to the clearly off-the-record nature of the evening, I'll refrain from identifying them. The context is the fact that Louise, who’s an extraordinary entrepreneur in her own right with her stable of art publications including Art+Auction and the landmark ArtInfo.com, has also taken up the cause of China and its efforts to reach some form of modus vivendi with the Dalai Lama and return peace to Tibet. Recently, she returned from a round of shuttle diplomacy between Lhasa and Beijing. "I want only what is best for the Dalai Lama and his spiritual foreigners," she says most diplomatically, "and to embrace the reasonable demands of China as well." She's also quite committed to bringing all sides together in Palestine and Israel as well, along with close friends James Wolfensohn and Mortimer Zuckerman. But more about them in a moment. Above all, Louise believes in communication—all sides talking to each other, removing barriers to free movement of people, ideas and goods (so she's a big free-trade and Doha advocate as well). Inevitably, the talk on Saturday turned to Israel and Palestine. But only after we had thoroughly explored Louise’s recent efforts in China and Tibet where she travelled to gain support for an international fund administered by her Foundation for the cultural preservation of Tibet—a fund that would complement China’s already existing $70 million investment into the preservation of the region’s cultural heritage. She believes fervently that the Dalai Lama and China should sit down and talk, work out their differences and move on to peace and development for the benefit of the Tibet Autonomous Region. She is persuaded that the Dalai Lama and his supporters have been somewhat outrageous in their demands—which appear to amount to a takeover of a quarter of the territory of China itself, or “Greater Tibet” as it is often put. Her guests were as reluctant to spring to China's defense as they clearly were to spring to the defense of the Palestinians.

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