Ido Aharoni, Israel's Consul General in New York, spoke Tuesday on the prospects of peace in the Middle East, the threat of a nuclear Iran, and the future of the Israeli-Egyptian relationship during a conference call with Jewish National Fund supporters titled, "Israel: What's New in the Region."
“It’s always a pleasure to address my own family,” Aharoni began, before launching into a discussion of the current challenges facing the region.
Broaching what he called “the talk of the day” in Israel, Aharoni voiced some criticism for the recent “60 Minutes” piece on Tel Aviv. “It’s a fascinating piece for one reason, and one reason only in my eyes,” Aharoni explained. “The bottom line for those of you who watched it is clearly the Israelis don’t care about peace with the Arabs. Nothing can be more remote from the truth.”
Israel’s relative prosperity, used in the segment as evidence of the “Tel Aviv bubble,” Aharoni said was “a reflection not of the fact that Israelis are not interested in peace, but of the face that Israelis know who they’re dealing with.”
“The issue at hand is not necessarily territorial,” Aharoni said. He recalled how Israel and the United States agreed to almost all of the Palestinian’s territorial demands, and “yet they declined, continually and habitually, the Israeli offer.”
He qualified, “Of course, the Israelis, as much as they support peace, also understand that the real issue at hand is our very right to exist.”
The greatest threat to that existence right now, as Aharoni sees it, is Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Consul General read a Sunday statement from the Chief of Staff of the Iranian armed forces that vowed, “The Iranian nation will remain committed to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end.”
Israel cannot stand by while Iran develops nuclear weapons because “Iran is the only country in the entire world … that is openly calling for the annihilation of the state of Israel, that’s openly denying the Holocaust and that is actively trying to instigate violence throughout the world,” Aharoni explained.
“You see their fingerprints all over the place … it’s an endless list of nations that they’re involved in,” he said, listing Uruguay, Morocco, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria as examples.
Aharoni believes that Iran entering the safety zone and becoming untouchable will spark a regional arms race. “The real meaning of nuclear Iran is that the Middle East will enter an uncontrollable, regional nuclear arms race that may produce by the end of this process nuclear weapons in the hands of not only rogue regimes, but also terrorist groups.” While Israel would like diplomacy to work, Aharoni maintains that all options should remain on the table, including a military strike.
Aharoni then turned to the third challenge he saw as facing the region: the so-called Arab Spring. For the Consul General, the revolution actually signifies the rise of political Islam. However, Aharoni doesn’t anticipate that Egypt’s presidential elections will result in an administration seeking to change their relationship with Israel.
While “there are no assurances in foreign policy,” Aharoni related, “Our assessment is that Egypt’s economic situation will not allow them to do anything haphazardly with Israel or the United States.”
With thousands of years of persecution, pogroms and violence against the Jewish people, Aharoni celebrated that the culture is still alive. “We learned how to function and function well and thrive and prosper not only in conditions of uncertainty but also by the refusal to accept limitations,” Aharoni concluded. “That’s really the driving engine behind everything that’s creative and innovative about Israel.”
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