April 27, 2011
Springfield, Ill – The “nuclear program of Iran is not being talked about. It is the number one long-term threat in the region.”
This was one of the key message points from Steve Dishler, who addressed the community in Springfield, Illinois. Mr. Dishler is Director for International Affairs at the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. His topic was “Upheaval in the Middle East: Ramifications for the United States and Israel.”
While there is a positive reason for the discussion topic change – “Arab revolutions have pushed it off public discussion” – the threat has not changed. As Dishler noted, with a nuclear weapon in its arsenal, Iran “increases its regional influence and threat” to Arab countries, western interests and Israel.
Commenting on the Arab Spring/Awakening, Dishler introduced his thoughts by saying there is “admiration [by] and concern for the Jewish community.” The admiration part is obvious, as citizens of Tunisia and Egypt risked their lives to give democracy a chance. However, Dishler reinforced a critical, yet regularly under-reported item: “Egyptian leaders did not/have not conditioned their people for real acceptance of Israel,” which sadly is “the same as the Palestinian leadership.” He referenced a poll released this week that indicated 54% of Egyptians want the peace treaty with Israel canceled.
Even a “cold peace” with Egypt was positive, noted Dishler, who explained why Israel has been worried about what comes next for its neighbor: “Peace with Egypt has been a major military/political/resource utilization factor for policy making.” He expressed concern about an eventual reopening of the Hamas/Gaza border with Egypt and the almost certain increased flow of military weapons to be used against Israel.
Regarding Syria, regime change there “will weaken Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah” predicted Dishler.
On the issue of a potential Palestinian statehood initiative at the United Nations in December, Dishler was clear and direct: it is designed to “alienate Israel” and “will not achieve Palestinian statehood.” This can only be achieved via direct negotiations with Israel.
In response to a question, Dishler provided this insight on the Arab Spring: “Some Arab countries [their people] associate identity more with clan/religion/tribe/sect than traditional western national identity.” He explained that the reason for this is the post- World War I carving-up of regional geography by the victorious powers for political/economic benefit, with no regard and understanding of the peoples living in those areas. He added that there is a common misconception in grouping the Arab countries together: there are many differences and “they are not monolithic.”
Mr. Dishler’s lecture was sponsored by the JCRC of the Jewish Federation of Springfield, Illinois and the Springfield Chapter of Hadassah.