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Nixon Center Has Ticket of the Month: Chas Freeman vs. Rob Satloff

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Robert_Satloff_press_photo.jpgIt's invite only, a small group, no subs -- but on the record.

At the Nixon Center, it will be Chas Freeman vs. Rob Satloff on the topic: "Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?"

This is one of the few genuine debates on Israel-Middle East issues that I have seen organized in Washington, though I do want to tip my hat to the Hudson Institute for a program last year that had a range of speakers ranging from Meyrav Wurmser to Daniel Levy and lots of other credible Israel-Middle East voices across the spectrum. That was an excellent exchange, but that was last year.

chas freeman standing.jpgThe Nixon Center gets the "chutzpah award" for bringing in the big guns who won't pull their punches - and yet know how to be civil while trying to shove each other out of the ring.

Robert Satloff is Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy while Chas Freeman, Chairman of Projects International and a former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was up for a position as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council in the Obama administration until many in the American Jewish community raised substantial concerns about Freeman's nomination. Retired four star General Chuck Boyd, who is now a Senior Fellow at the Nixon Center, will moderate the discussion.

This is a clip from the Nixon Center invitation:

President Obama's recent White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been portrayed as repairing a relationship damaged by major policy differences. Yet, as public discussion of U.S.-Israel ties grows, the meeting left many questions unanswered. How strong is the U.S.-Israel relationship? What is the relationship's basis? Is it truly "unbreakable" as described by President Obama?

Each of our speakers is widely regarded as an authority on the Middle East. Chas Freeman is a former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs. He is currently Chairman of Projects International and President Emeritus of the Middle East Policy Council. Robert Satloff is Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a prominent commentator in the national media, and the author or editor of nine books and monographs on Middle East issues.

The meeting takes place on July 20th, a date I will be in Beijing - in no small part due to the efforts of Richard Nixon to change global gravity by normalizing relations during a time of great doubt about the US around the world.

In some ways, getting Israel/Palestine on a real, two state track as well as figuring out the Iran puzzle are the "Nixon Goes to China" opportunities for the Obama administration.

I am counting on one of my journalist/blogger friends who will make the Nixon Center's cut to send me the "audio file" of this meeting as soon as it is finished.

What a ticket!

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons