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Jeremy Ben-Ami Headshot

A Direct Answer to Alan Dershowitz and a Challenge Back

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Alan, first, I am pleased to be asked what my opinion is rather than to be told.

You ask whether I claim a direct relationship between Israel's actions on the West Bank and American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. The short answer is no. Those wars and the casualties that have ensued do not find their roots in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it would be absurd to adhere to such a simplistic causal analysis.

Now my challenge to you: Do you or do you not accept that there is an American national interest in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? You have studiously avoided acknowledging that there is one. And, in fact, you started this exchange because my letter to The New York Times making that point apparently pushed me to "the dark side."

I can't imagine that you believe there is not an American national interest in ending the conflict, but I'm open to hearing your argument.

Extremists across the globe use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a centerpiece of their recruitment - online, on their websites, and off. Resolving the conflict would deny them a powerful recruitment tool - undeniably to our benefit.

The ongoing conflict makes it more difficult for our allies in the region and around the world to work openly with the United States because of the public criticism it exposes them to in their domestic politics.

I know you share my concern about the rising influence of Iran in the region and its quest for nuclear weapons. Putting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to rest would permit a broader regional coalition to work together in countering Ahmedinejad and would lessen the Iranians' ability to advance their own strategic interests through their use of ties with Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. Is that not an American interest?

Then there are our economic interests. At any moment, were the simmering conflict to shift to a full boil or at some point to spark a broader regional war, the price of oil would skyrocket dealing a devastating blow to our economy and those of many Western nations.

Are you claiming that it's simply wrong for the President, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor -- and J Street -- to acknowledge all of these American interests in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

I will refrain from responding to the personal charges -- which take up three-quarters of your challenge to me - and focus your attention on the direct questions at hand.