BALTIMORE – David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN, has said that the
chances for conflict with Iran erupting in the next two to 24 months are greater
than 50 percent, and, according to some estimates, as high as
Speaking before a packed audience of 3,000 that had gathered for the
annual General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America, Gergen was
remarkably candid in his discussion of Israel-America relations now that the US
presidential elections are over.
President Barack Obama will be focused
during his second term on domestic issues, he predicted, but would nevertheless
not be able to avoid the Middle East even if he wanted to. There is simply too
much unresolved and too much at stake, he said.
And the central conundrum
he will have to deal with is Iran. “In my 30 years in and out of politics,” he
reflected, “this is the toughest problem I have ever seen.”
the Israeli elections, he ventured – assuming, as expected, that Netanyahu will
continue in office – the prime minister is likely to ask the United States for a
green light to take military action against Iran. This, he said, will create
enormous angst, as the two countries differ significantly in regard to the point
at which intervention becomes necessary.
For Netanyahu, the “red line”
needs to be drawn at the moment when Iran develops the capability to produce a
nuclear weapon. For Obama, it needs to be drawn only when such a weapon is
actually manufactured. This is likely to cause an unprecedented crisis in
relations between the two countries.
The only way to avoid such a crisis,
Gergen argued, is for Israel and America to open a new chapter in their dealings
with one another. Both sides must recognize and take responsibility for the
things that they have done to antagonize one another, and agree to negotiate new
understandings out of the headlines.
“We don’t need red lines being drawn
on national or international television,” he noted. “The problem is too big and
too complex to try to solve by backing one another into a corner.”
same speech, Gergen also noted the need to recognize the dramatic change in the
demographics of the American electorate, and to heed new voices that are
demanding to be heard.
“When Clinton ran for president,” he observed,
“87% of those voting were white. In this past election, that percentage dropped
“It is women put Obama back in the White House,” he contended,
“and minorities play a much larger role in the political arena than they used
to, particularly the Latino community. White men, like myself, need to make room
around the table for others, including those of a younger
Indeed, it may be that Obama might have lost the election
had it been held in Israel, he said, but Netanyahu would likely lose his bid for
leadership were the contest to take place in the United States. Presumably
Gergen was referring to the huge discrepancy between the preferences of Jewish
voters in the two countries, with more than two-thirds of those in America
having voted for Obama, the candidate supported by less than one-third of