Today’s lunch at the AIPAC conference was a discussion between AEI’s Richard Perle and Rep. Jane Harman (D., Calif.), moderated by Dan Senor, about the future of the war on terror. (It was billed as a presentation of “two visions,” but as Senor pointed out at the end it was more like one and a half, with Harman taking a pretty hawkish stance on most things.)
At times the audience’s reaction was as interesting as what was said. For example, toward the beginning of the presentation, Senor read aloud from a sermon that aired earlier this month on Palestinian Authority television:
We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world–except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history.
A few minutes later, responding to Harman’s suggestion that Bush work with Abbas to help him strengthen security, Perle said he thought the president shouldn’t cut the PA too much slack. “We should be tough on Abbas in his own interests and the interests of the Palestinians,” he said. For example, “I would say to Abbas, before you come [to Washington], why don’t you fire the person who put that [clip] on Palestinian television?” The audience loved it.
The audience also liked Perle’s statement that he would hope “if justification for military action developed in Iran,” the United States “wouldn’t expect little Israel to do our job.” He received more applause when he followed that up with, “If Iran is on the verge of a nuclear weapon, we will have no choice but to take decisive action.”
The same crowd erupted into chuckles when Harman said the administration’s short-term goal with regard to Iran should be to set a firm deadline for action by the U.N. Security Council. Perle agreed that tough economic sanctions could be effective, especially if combined with support for Iran’s democratic opposition. But, he said, we should ask “what could the U.N. do, and then what would it do?”
Much of what Harman had to say was well received, but interestingly enough it was Perle who managed to get the audience fired up.