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LEADERSHIP BRIEFING

ISRAEL AMB. OREN EXAMINES MIDEAST DEVELOPMENTS


May 6, 2011

 

Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, acknowledged today that many of the recent events in the Middle East could dramatically impact the future of peace and stability in the entire region.
 
The Ambassador spoke on a special “Israel Perspectives” teleconference of the Israel Advocacy Initiative, a project of The Jewish Federations of North America and The Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Participants from across North America joined the JFNA-JCPA call to discuss recent events in the Middle East, including the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, the Palestinian push for a declaration of independence and a possible second flotilla, to depart from Turkey this summer.

 

“Events are transpiring at such a rapid pace,” said Oren, during the call. “You go to bed at night and wonder what kind of Mideast you’re going to wake up to in the morning.”

 

Oren called the killing of Osama bin Laden an “immense triumph against terror,” but said the signing of the Hamas-Fatah unity deal in Cairo three days later was a “tremendous blow to the peace process and a victory for terror.”

 

Hamas, he noted, not only has a covenant to destroy Israel, but also “follows up on the deed,” regularly firing rockets into Israel, enlisting suicide bombers and killing thousands of Israelis, including one person during a recent attack on a school bus in the South.

 

“Hamas is the only government in the world that condemned the killing of bin Laden,” continued Oren. “This pact worsens an already deplorable situation.”

 

The efforts to achieve international recognition of a unilateral Palestinian state at the UN Assembly this fall further clouds any prospect of peace. “It would risk a situation in which 500,000 Israelis would find themselves interlopers in a foreign country,” he said, and “abdicate all agreements we have with the Palestinian Authority and all agreements that the U.S. has with the Palestinian Authority.”

 

Oren expressed disappointment that some critical allies in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, including the UN and Russia, praised the reconciliation act between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

 

Only the U.S., he said, publicly stated this week that it will continue its refusal to negotiate with Hamas unless it follows three conditions: recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and abiding by interim peace deals. “It’s essential to uphold those conditions for the security of Israel and the future of peace and stability of the entire region,” said Oren. “How can [Israel] sit with a government that includes an organization that is dedicated to our destruction?”

 

Oren also addressed the turmoil in several Mideast countries, including Egypt and Syria, and its potential impact on Israel. He called Israel’s “general downturn in our relationship with Egypt,” which has included the opening of the Suez Canal to Iranian warships, renewing ties with Iran and threatening to cut off energy and gas, as “a source of great concern.” While the Egyptian military claims it will uphold the Egyptian-Israel treaty, “we remain concerned.”

 

Dispelling rumors that Israel had expressed concerns over a possible new government in Syria, Oren said, “We welcome any genuine reform there,” especially if it includes the “emergence of a peace-loving democracy.”

 

As for the possibility of a new, larger flotilla scheduled to sail to Gaza this June, Oren said that Israel is working with the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration to discourage European countries from allowing ships to sail from them. “We’re committed to upholding the maritime blockade of Gaza,” he said. “If that was to be broken, Gaza would be open to unlimited smuggling of weaponry into the country…which places every single city in Israel within rocket fire [range].”

 

Oren said Israel “remains cautious but optimistic about the future,” but he conceded that recent events have contributed to a “flammable situation” in the Middle East. “This is a period of tremendous opportunity, but also significant risks,” he said. The relationship between Israel and the U.S. is now more critical than ever (and one on which he recently elaborated in this Foreign Policy article), he continued. “There is no substitute for Israel as an ally to the U.S. and the U.S. as an ally to Israel.”
 
For those who could not participate on the call, a recording is available. To access the recording, click here. JFNA will continue to monitor the situation in the Middle East, and provide reports to Federations as necessary.

 
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