Congressman, Journalist discuss Middle East conflict

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), D.C. bureau chief of Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz and a fellow from the Middle East Forum discussed conflicts in the Middle East before about 100 people in Funger Hall Tuesday night.

The Student Alliance for Israel and the College Democrats hosted a panel discussion called “Hezbollah, Israel and the U.S.: A Look Forward” with Wexler, Nathan Guttman from Ha’aretz and Asaf Romirowsky from the Middle East think tank.

Wexler said that the U.S. and Israel have an “unbreakable bond” and criticized President George W. Bush’s policies in Iraq and in the Middle East peace process. Wexler claimed that the U.S. was “mired in a disaster” in Iraq and called it a distraction from the Middle East peace process.

“Historians will see Bush’s policies in the Middle East as America’s greatest foreign policy failure in the 21st century,” Wexler said.

“The Iraq War was bad for Middle Eastern peace and for Israel,” he added.

Wexler said there is a “ray of hope” in the responses of moderate Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and moderate Muslims throughout the world to the Israeli and Hezbollah conflict.

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving back (in the Middle East),” Wexler said.

One student in the crowd shouted “Go ahead. Cut and run like every other Democrat,” when Wexler began to excuse himself for an engagement on the Larry King Show.

Romirowsky spoke about the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the condition of Jews worldwide.

Guttman discussed how the media presented the situation in Israel to the rest of the world. “The Israeli narrative of the war [in Lebanon] was easy for Americans to understand,” he said.

In the end, Guttman said he saw the conflict as a draw. “There were no clear winners and losers in this war.”

College Democrat organizers said they were pleased with attendance, and the discussion from all sides of the issue.

“It is our hope that this event will promote interest among the student body in the safety and security of Israel, and the special role it plays in Middle Eastern Affairs,” said Michael Weil, a junior and GW College Democrats director of communications.

Scott Leibowitz, a sophomore and the head of SAFI, said creating a discourse and educating students on the confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah during this “confusing time” was the main goal of the forum.

-Lizzie Wozobski contributed to this report.

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