A change will occur in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the first few days of the next presidency, a visiting lecturer said Wednesday.
Mara Rudman, a former security adviser to former President Bill Clinton, outlined what the next president should do to achieve that: Involve all countries in the region, and send the National Security Council to the Middle East for peace-making purposes.
Before a crowd of 50 people at Old Brick, Rudman said she hopes by Inauguration Day the future president will be ready to implement such a specific plan to help Israelis and Palestinians move to a two-state solution - ideally, one that would allow the nations to coexist peacefully.
Middle East peace may not be a front-and-center issue for most voters, but she said the candidates have made it important.
"I think Sen. Obama has been very clear the priority he places on working on these issues," she said. And "Gov. Palin in the vice-presidential debate was clear in saying that working to resolve Israeli-Palestinian issues would be at the top of the agenda."
But other political experts said the Arab-Israeli conflict hasn't emerged as a major topic in the election. The conflict severely constrains U.S. efforts to achieve its national goals in the region, UI political-science Professor Vicki Hesli said in an e-mail.
She said candidates have offered a number of "thoughtful" proposals that would achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. For example, recent negotiations have focused more directly on a one-state solution.
Also, support among the people in the region for a one-state solution is rising, actually, Hesli wrote.
The number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip dropped 56 percent from 2006 to 2007, according to the Israeli human-rights group B'tselem. Of those, only 36 percent were peaceful civilians, compared with 54 percent in 2006.
Candidates have been understandably very careful when vocalizing their policies on the issue, especially when almost any position they might take is subject to criticism, Hesli wrote.
Meanwhile, Rudman encouraged the crowd to pressure local lawmakers by offering ideas on dissolving the Middle-East issue, because they may "weigh in more heavily on these issues than other foreign-policy issues."
"We joke that there are 545 secretaries of state," she said.
Rudman said Iowans are well-versed on the conflict because it's the early caucus state.
"I think it's because you guys are so much at the center, that perhaps you end up both getting more attention and, as a result, studying up," she said.
University of Iowa senior Simon Holoubek said he disagrees with some of Rudman's "U.S.-centric views," adding that he thinks this issue won't influence voters because many people are uninformed or misinformed.