Crown calls for compromise in Middle East |

Crown calls for compromise in Middle East

In the final discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Chicago billionaire Lester Crown, whose family owns Aspen Skiing Co., said Tuesday that the “ultimate answer” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “a two-state solution.”

“There isn’t any other answer,” Crown said during a discussion with Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine. “There’s never going to be one state between the Mediterranean and Jordan River. That is just not going to happen.”

The talk, called “Perspectives on the United States and Israel,” was held in the Doerr-Hosier Center at the Aspen Institute.

The topic — the political situation in the Middle East and the future of the state of Israel — hits close to home for Crown, 88. His father founded Henry Crown and Co. and contributed enormously to the founding of the Jewish state.

Lester Crown said he vividly remembers his father talking about his worries concerning the anti-Semitic developments in Europe during the early 1940s.

“I know at the dinner table Dad would come back and say he heard this as a rumor or he heard this,” Crown said. “There was no question … of the existence of the concentration and the death camps. The conversation at home was one of frustration of not being in a position to influence the United States to do more.”

So when the possibility of a Jewish state, or a “safe haven,” as Crown referred to it, arose, the family jumped at the opportunity.

“To even talk about the idea that there would be a state that welcomed Jews from everywhere … it was an absolute dream,” Crown said. “Therefore, participating and contributing to what became the state of Israel was something I know we were involved with from Day One.”

Crown has supported Israel throughout his career. He said he believes the existence of the Jewish state is of utmost importance to the perpetuation of Judaism and even larger global culture.

“Judaism is exceedingly important. It’s something that I hope goes on for many, many years because it teaches, just the way Christianity does, real morality, and real ethics.”

But Crown did not overlook the difficulties with which the nations involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must grapple. For the Israelis, Crown suspects security is the biggest concern.

“Security from (the Israelis’) standpoint is all-important,” Crown said. “Do they overdo it sometimes? Yes. But it is so easy to sit 6,000 miles away and criticize what somebody else does for their own kids’ security.”

And despite his support for Israel, Crown also acknowledged the importance of compromise in terms of land in the Middle East.

Isabelle Chapman is an editorial intern working for The Aspen Times through July.


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