Author highlights Israel-Palestine crisis


From the cold streets of Istanbul to the fortified walls of the European Union, the world is struggling to cope with a refugee crisis.

It was under the spotlight in a debate at the Auckland Writers festival on Wednesday night.

As an Israeli secret agent, Yossi Alpher had the power to make decisions to change the course of history.

He was Israel's top intelligence analyst during the Iranian revolution in 1979.

After the Shah was overthrown, he made the call not to assassinate Iran's post-revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Khomeni.

Alpher is still not sure if it was the right decision.

"Now sometimes... I wake up at 3am and I wonder, 'What if?'. What if I had said yes [to the assassination]? This guy is going to change the world and it makes sense that whatever the costs, whatever the spillover, it may make sense to do this."

Now an author, Alpher is taking on modern problems born from modern conflict.

He's in town for the Auckland Writer's festival and was among a panel speaking to 1400 people in the Town Hall.

They're discussing the Arab revolutions and what's become the worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

Europe is overwhelmed with the steady stream of people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa while Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have absorbed millions of Syrian refugees.

But the sheer scale of the problem has pushed another important crisis into the background.

The dispute between Israel and the Palestinian territories is one of the most complex and nuanced -- and it's stuck.

One sticking point are Israeli settlements.

Deemed illegal under international law, the Israeli government continues to evict Palestinians from their land in the West Bank and build new homes for Israeli settlers to live in.

"The biggest problem I have with Netanyahu government is that it is a settler government," Alpher says.

"It represents or embodies the orthodox Jewish messianic settler movement, which continues to seek to expand the land grab in the West Bank, which appears to prefer to expand over democracy."

Alpher believes without big changes by both the Israeli government and Palestinian leadership, both sides are on the slippery slope to what he calls an ugly one state reality.