One of the highlights of the 2014 Saban Forum came on Saturday evening, in what was billed as a conversation on Israel’s future moderated by Martin Indyk, the vice president for Foreign Policy at Brookings who last year served as U.S. special envoy for Israeli–Palestinian negotiations. The featured speaker was Jewish Home Party chairman Naftali Bennett, who heads the Israeli economy ministry as well as the ministry of religious services, Jerusalem and diaspora affairs, and the discussion quickly morphed into a fierce debate between two profoundly divergent visions for advancing peace and security for Israel.
I could attempt to summarize the conversation here on the blog, or you could read the entire transcript here on the Saban Forum page, but neither would do justice to the intensity of the arguments put forward or the acuity of their respective rebuttals. For anyone interested in the future of Israel or the prospects for reviving peace talks with the Palestinians or the options for U.S. policy toward this protracted dispute, this discussion should not be missed.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the value of ferocious arguments and strenuous disagreements. Watching the sparring match between Indyk and Bennett reminded me yet again how important it is to engage with opposing views rather than simply disregard or reject them. Such impassioned, enlightened disagreements over difficult issues are in fact the hallmark of the annual Saban Forum — and a testament to the unique Israeli-American friendship and the values of candor and contestation that are engrained in both countries’ political culture.
For more on the Saban Forum — including video from each of the keynote addresses and discussions — please check the main Saban Forum 2014 site as well as our Markaz blog for analyses of the key issues at stake and summaries of the public events. This year’s Forum included addresses by Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, Vice President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (via satellite), Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as a discussion between Saban Forum Chairman Haim Saban and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Still, before you click away, I urge you to watch the conversation embedded below.
[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.