Shek identified the first circle of threat, Iraq and Iran, as the most severe. He said, "For Israel, Iraq and Iran pose the most long- term strategic threat because, combined, they are ideologically driven, have a regional ambition, and may gain non-conventional capability unprecedented in the region and possibly in the history of the world.
The second circle of threat comes from countries immediately bordering Israel. Israel's concern is the security of its borders. Shek emphasized that Israel "has no territorial, economic, or other ambitions in Lebanon." The Israeli perspective is that Southern Lebanon is under Hezbollah control, not Lebanese control. Shek noted that if Israel and Lebanon could negotiate directly, the issue could be resolved in a matter of months.
Shek talked briefly about the difficulty of negotiating with Syria. He said that rather than "Land for Peace," Syria wants "land for nothing, and then we'll see." This is not acceptable, according to Shek, especially because the disputed land is the Golan Heights, which overlooks northern Israel and is crucial to the security of the country.
Relationships with Jordan are more positive. The recent peace treaty provides a solution along Israel's longest shared border. Even more importantly, there is a commitment to peaceful relations between Jordan and Israel.
The third circle, or the core, is the relationship with the Palestinians. Shek does not see the Palestinians as a threat to the existence of Israel. While the Intifada was horrible for both Israelis and Palestinians, it would not have destroyed Israel. The relationship between the two is complicated and unprecedented "because the territory is so small; the emotions are so high; our lives are so entwined. We cannot be dissociated," said Shek. To summarize the Israeli position, he quoted the writer and peace activist Amos Oz, "There should be no illusion. We are not looking for a marriage with the Palestinians. We are looking for a divorce."
Shek then specified how these circles of threat can become circles of peace. Starting with the core of Israeli-Palestinian issues, Shek expressed optimism that the good days of peace negotiations will return. "Nobody will be able to convince me that we are at a dead end."
Progress at the core spreads outward. When there is progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the second circle, especially Syria, becomes more interested in negotiations.
Peace with the Palestinians may not mean a shift in the Iraqi and Iranian regional ambitions. It would isolate Iraq and Iran as the sole aggressors in a region focusing less on conflict and more on social and economic well-being. Aggression in such an environment would be discouraged.
Shek closed with congratulations to the Jewish Studies program, noting its importance: "You will not comprehend the phenomenon of Israel without knowledge of Jewish history, and you cannot study modern Jewish history without understanding Israel and its role as the fulfillment of the aspirations of the Jewish people for self-determination."
The minor in Modern Jewish and Israel Studies has three aspects: Israel studies, Holocaust studies, and Jewish religion and history. To learn more about the program, contact Sam Edelman at 898-4336.