Camden Conference in the World ~ November
Many Camden Conference speakers have been addressing the horrific events in Israel and Gaza over the last month, from widely different varying perspectives but in a civil tone that underscores the importance and meaning of our conference and our community. Shai Feldman, a speaker at Camden’s 2013 conference on “The Middle East: What’s Next” and a professor of Israeli Politics and Society at Brandeis, argued in a fascinating discussion with colleagues from Palestine and from Egypt that the current conflict could open a new path to peace. On the timing of the Hamas attack, Feldman said: “Israel created a window of vulnerability. Hamas had to act before the window was shut.” This window resulted from the Israeli government’s attempt to undermine democracy and make concessions to radical orthodox religious leaders. “The silver lining is that [due to] precisely the same developments… the center of the Israeli [political] map has woken up.” Now, with Hamas attack, “the reckoning in Israel has already begun.” This could fundamentally change the regional dynamic, he suggested. (Start at minute 15 of the second video for the crux of the discussion).
Former Jordanian foreign minister and 2013 Camden Conference speaker Marwan Muasher, also vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, similarly noted that “the history of the region has taught us that, out of crises of this magnitude, political breakthroughs can be achieved.“ However, leading off a series of “Arab Perspectives on the Middle East Crisis” published by Carnegie, Muasher concluded that a radical Israeli government, ineffective Palestinian leadership, and a US administration preoccupied with coming elections mean that “this time is different… The stars are not aligned for a political initiative.”
Stephen Walt, the well-known professor at Harvard with a column in Foreign Policy who keynoted the 2018 Camden Conference, argued that “America Is a Root Cause of Israel and Palestine’s Latest War,” in his latest column. You can hear Walt discussing this topic personally in the “Parallax Views” podcast on WallStreet Windows.
Russia and the Ukraine war remained another prominent topic. Distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Thomas Graham, a speaker at Camden’s 2015 conference on “Russia Resurgent,” asked “How Firm is Putin’s Grip on Power?” in a CFR briefing early last month. “Putin is not invulnerable by any means,” but his grip remains firm, Graham concluded. Factors behind this continued strength include: “The Ukrainian counteroffensive has stalled. The Russian economy is growing, despite Western sanctions. It appears that Western support for Ukraine is beginning to crack. Victory still looks to be within reach for Moscow. In short, the conflict so far has done little to erode Putin’s position.” The commentary is aligned with Graham’s new book, Getting Russia Right.
Constanza Stelzenmuller, director of the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings, coauthored an impassioned plea in the Washington Post for continued American support for aid for Ukraine, backed up by five charts that “track wobbly support for Ukraine in the US and EU.” Stelzenmuller shared the stage with Graham in Camden at the 2015 Russia conference and spoke to the 2022 Europe conference.
In another sign of the less than rock-solid Western support for Ukraine that Graham mentioned, Simon Evenett, professor of international trade at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and a 2023 conference speaker, discussed in The Conversation why only 8% of Western firms operating in Russia when it attacked Ukraine have closed down operations the country, despite many promising to do so.