David Makovsky is the Ziegler distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute and director of the Koret Project on Arab-Israel Relations.
The new season of the Decision Points podcast with host David Makovsky focuses on challenging Israeli policy dilemmas.
This season of Decision Points features episodes on Israel's toughest contemporary policy dilemmas requiring courageous leadership and creative thinking. Topics range from the aftermath of the Gaza conflict to the Israeli-Russian relationship. Each episode will explore a thorny policy issue as well as its context, trajectory, and Israel's options. The first episode premieres on June 15th and focuses on the the Iranian nuclear program.
Episode 1: The United States, Israel, and the Iranian Nuclear Program
World attention has focused on the prospects of the United States and Iran finding terms that enable them to return to their 2015 nuclear deal. Yet what does this mean for all the unanswered challenges that President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken say are essential to address in a “longer and stronger” follow-on agreement? How will the United States preserve its leverage for such a second round? What incentives will Iran have to engage in negotiations after a Vienna deal is reached? And what does this mean for Israel and the rest of the Middle East?
For the first episode of the season, host David Makovsky discusses this major decision point with three guests who have deep expertise on Iran, the nuclear program, and Israel’s approach to deterring it.
Ambassador Dennis Ross, the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, formerly served as special assistant to President Obama and senior director for the Central Region at the National Security Council, among other prominent positions.
Ray Takeyh is the Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the recent book The Last Shah: America, Iran, and the Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty.
Ariel (Eli) Levite is a nonresident senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program and Cyber Policy Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment; previously, he served as principal deputy director-general for policy at the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission from 2002 to 2007.
Episode 2: Israel's Powder Keg: Hamas in Gaza
In May, after tensions escalated in Jerusalem, Hamas and Israel broke a two-year ceasefire and were drawn into war. The crisis reminded the world that the ideological differences between the sides are vast. Are Israel and Hamas doomed to face each other every few years? How much of a game-changer was this round of fighting for them, the UN, and key regional players? What are some of the difficult options ahead?
In this episode, David Makovsky hosts three expert guests on Israeli-Palestinian affairs.
Nickolay Mladenov served as the UN secretary-general’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process between 2015 and 2020 as well as Bulgaria’s minister of defense and foreign affairs.
Michael Herzog, a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces, is the Milton Fine International Fellow with The Washington Institute. Over the past decade, he has held senior positions in the office of the minister of defense under Ehud Barak, Amir Peretz, Shaul Mofaz, and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
Karim Haggag, a career Egyptian diplomat with over twenty-five years of service, currently works as a professor of practice in the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo.
Episode 3: Israel's Gray Zone: Iran in Syria
Since 2015, Iranian forces have increasingly entrenched themselves in Syria as part of a broader effort to bolster the rule of Bashar al-Assad. As this effort began to unfold, Israel feared reenacting the cautionary tale of Hezbollah in Lebanon, where indecision over rooting out the Tehran-backed terrorist group proved to be a decision in itself. To avoid a situation in which Iranian or proxy forces are positioned along the entirety of Israel’s northern border, the IDF has been walking a tightrope in Syria, taking direct action against major security threats while trying to avoid a full-scale war. Can this gray zone strategy succeed in pushing Iran out of Syria or not?
To discuss this regional decision point, David Makovsky hosts distinguished guests James Jeffrey, Assaf Orion, and Oula Alrifai.
Ambassador Jeffrey served as the U.S. special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS until November 2020. He currently chairs the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program.
General Orion is a senior fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies and the Rueven International Fellow with The Washington Institute. Previously, he served as head of the Strategic Division in the IDF General Staff’s Planning Directorate.