JDCA hosts exclusive briefing on Middle East with fmr. Ambassador Dan Shapiro

The Jewish Democratic Council of America had the honor of welcoming Dan Shapiro, the United States’ former ambassador to Israel under President Obama, to give a briefing on recent events in the Middle East to board members and donors on Friday, January 5. Here are some extracts from the revealing conversation with one of America’s leading experts on the region:

On Iranian protesters: “They’re chanting against corruption. They’re chanting against Iranian adventurism in the region—specifically mentioning Syria, where Iranians have died, and where a significant amount of Iranian assets have been wasted. And protesters are attributing that [the Iranian government’s actions] to the ongoing economic difficulties there.”

On the Trump Administration’s response to the protests: “I frankly think the Administration has struck the right tone so far in their statements on the protests. And I encourage that. The president [just] needs to be careful not to tweet about it every five or ten minutes.”

On the political climate in Israel, and the implications for the future: “We’re in a pre-election state. There’s a lot of competition. There’s a lot of posturing, and getting ready for that, and getting party activists excited to vote for candidates who take strong positions on things like [official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.] There’s a lot of posturing, and a lot of symbolism. And ultimately that doesn’t take much off the table when it comes time to have actual negotiations.”

On a way forward: “President Abbas who, even in the best of times, has been passive and unwilling to make unpopular decisions that’d test his popularity in the competition with Hamas—the dynamic between him and Netanyahu couldn’t be worse. They fundamentally distrust each other. We just have to be realistic: If a negotiation were to begin tomorrow, it would fail, and fail spectacularly. More important is to reestablish the principles and goals of a two-state solution… and then try to create space for Israelis and Palestinians to pursue that and begin political relationships which would make an environment in which negotiations could proceed, in a different political environment, in the future.”