Last night, J Street U Penn — a pro-Israel and pro-peace student group — hosted Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli attorney and legal expert on east Jerusalem policy.
For his talk, Seidemann delved into his professional experience and lent some insight on the possibility of a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.
He began with a call to action, adding that “the settlements in the east of Jerusalem are expanding out of control, that by the end of 2013, it won’t be possible to redraw the map.”
Jerusalem, Seidemann said, would be “radioactive, glowing and a burial ground” if actions are not soon taken.
He believes that the key to a potential two-state solution is U.S. President Barack Obama. While the president is scheduled to visit Israel in March, Seidemann considers this a big mistake.
“Obama has had the most remarkable achievement in the Middle East,” he said, pausing to keep the audience waiting. “He has managed to be less popular than George W. Bush.” Seidemann strongly opposes Obama’s visit as he senses that it has more to do with “placating the Jewish community” than helping the situation.
Seidemann and his organization, Terrestrial Jerusalem, have been constantly lobbying in Israel and the United States to keep the two-state solution alive.
His approach to diplomacy combines pragmatism and rationality. Regarding “ideologues” on the extreme ends of the political spectrum, Seidemann made clear that he is willing to work with any party.
“I take empirical facts seriously,” he said. “I’m willing to communicate with all parties involved, including the settlers and the Palestinian community.”
Many politicians, such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, are willing to act on Seidemann’s point, he said.
Kerry is “one of the most intelligent and understanding on this issue,” Seidemann added, “but if Obama doesn’t give the signal, nothing will get done.”
Seidemann then turned his attention to the political future of Israel, which is heading towards an “isolationist policy,” he said. He worries especially about losing powerful pro-Israel supporters, including Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel as well as moderate Republicans, whom he called as “an endangered species.”
Where Seideman does derive some hope, however, is in the recent Israeli election, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party won a narrow victory, indicating a shift towards more moderate policy. “Even Netanyahu can be negotiated with now,” he said.
Students who attended the event found the intimate setting — the Shotel Dubin Auditorium at Hillel — very convenient for discussion.
College senior Leanne Gale, co-president of J Street, valued Seidemann’s perspective, as it encourages an organization like J Street to voice all opinions on a two-state solution, which she said requires openness.
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