Ambassador Dennis Ross, a professor in the School of Foreign Service, and Colin Kahl met to discuss the past and future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in an event hosted by the Georgetown Bipartisan Pro-Israel Dialogue (GBPID). The discussion, which was moderated by Matthew Gregory (SFS ’17), took place in Lohrfink Auditorium on April 24.
Ross served as a peace negotiator between Israel and Palestine in the Clinton and Obama administrations, and Kahl was the deputy assistant to President Obama and National Security Advisor for Joe Biden. The event was co-hosted by the Georgetown Israel Alliance, J Street U Georgetown, Georgetown University College Democrats, Georgetown University College Republicans, the Georgetown Bipartisan Coalition and Turning Point USA.
Ross and Kahl talked about actions taken under the Obama administration, including the red line policy in Syria and the treaty regarding Iran’s nuclear reactors. Both agreed that Obama’s policies regarding Israel have been largely unsuccessful. “I’ve worked on this issue for 30 years and there’s never been a lower value of belief on either side,” Ross said, “Now we’re at a place where we have to do more to establish a sense of responsibility.” They continued to discuss the future of Israeli settlements, the impact of the Palestinian authority, and the future of Gaza.
Despite the negative tone, students in attendance said that the discussion contributed to their understanding of the issues. “I think my takeaway is that it’s just as intractable as you read about in the news. It wasn’t a super hopeful panel but it was definitely really fascinating to hear the complexities,” Ally Ross (NHS ’20) said.
Gregory hoped the event would shed light on a complex global issue. “Especially on campus, there’s a lot of heated rhetoric with regards to this issue. It’s something that people are really passionate about; it evokes strong emotions. But when you’re able to view it as a policy issue, when you’re able view it as something that could have a solution, the steps are how do you work towards actually advancing that,” he said.
Cayleigh Soderholm (SFS ’20) believed this event had given her the opportunity to form her opinions on the conflict. “It’s really tempting for college students to jump to what an easy answer might be, so I wanted to come here and hear about people who are experts in the field and have more experience and knowledge so I could come to a conclusion myself,” she said.
He also noted the importance of bipartisan dialogue and debate—Ross and Kahl have disagreed on various issues in the past, including the Iran deal and Obama’s response to the use of biological weapons in Syria. “They’re going to show that you can have productive, nuanced, informed conversation about this and explore the issue and you can have disagreements on certain policy areas but agree that there are ultimate goals that you’re trying to work towards,” Gregory said.
He said the wide range of political views of co-sponsoring clubs was evidence of the importance of bipartisan dialogue. “You can get all these people in the same room, on the same stage, and working together,” Gregory said, “In this day and age, with so much polarization on different issues, any time you can get people with different ideologies to work together that much, that in itself is really beneficial.”