January 8th, 2009

Chris Keeley

Former Amb. Martin Indyk vs. Author Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel’s Assault on Gaza and the

Martin Indyk, Ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs during the Clinton administration. He is currently the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He has a new book out titled Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East.

Norman Finkelstein, author of several books, including The Holocaust Industry, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict and Beyond Chutzpah.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes in the southern town of Rafah as Israel intensifies the assault on the Gaza Strip. Palestinians reported Israeli air strikes hit homes, mosques and tunnels in the area. Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse quoted witnesses as saying that dozens of Israeli tanks had entered southern Gaza and were heading towards Rafah. Fierce fighting was also reported between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers around Khan Yunis. Earlier today, the UN said Israeli forces fired on one of its relief convoys trying to pick up supplies. Al Jazeera reports at least one Palestinian was killed and two others injured in the attack. Meanwhile, Israel continued its bombardment of Gaza with sixty air strikes overnight. Residents described it as among the heaviest bombardments since the offensive began.

Al Jazeera reports at least 700 Palestinians, including 219 children, have died in Gaza since Israel began its assault on December 27th. More than 3,000 people have been wounded. Ten Israelis have died over the same thirteen-day period, including seven soldiers, four of them by so-called friendly fire.

On the diplomatic front, efforts to secure a truce in Gaza continue, with a senior Israeli official due to travel to Cairo to hear details of a ceasefire plan drawn up by Egypt and France. Israel said on Wednesday it accepted the “principles” of the proposal but wanted to study the plan. A Hamas delegation is expected in Cairo at some stage for parallel talks. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is due to arrive on Friday.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council seems deadlocked over the crisis. Arab countries want the Council to vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire while Britain, France and the US are pushing for a weaker statement welcoming the Egypt-France proposal.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a discussion on the crisis in Gaza, the US role in the conflict and what the prospects are for the incoming Obama administration.

Martin Indyk is the former US ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs during the Clinton administration. He’s currently the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He has a new book out; it’s called Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East. He’s an adviser to Hillary Clinton, who was tapped to be Obama’s Secretary of State, and is among those mentioned as a potential special envoy to the Middle East. Martin Indyk joins us from Washington, D.C.

We’re also joined by Norman Finkelstein here in New York, leading critic of Israeli foreign policy, the author of several books, including The Holocaust Industry, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict and Beyond Chutzpah.

We turn first to Ambassador Indyk. Can you explain why you think Israel began this assault almost two weeks ago now?

MARTIN INDYK: Good morning, Amy. Thanks very much for having me on the show. I feel a little bit sandbagged here. I was not told that I was going to be in some kind of debate with Norman Finkelstein. I’m not interested in doing that. I’m also not here as a spokesman for Israel. But I will try to answer your questions Collapse )