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Shimon Peres

Tag Archives | Shimon Peres

Tunnel Wars: Israel’s Worst Fears are Realized

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Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces

Israel Defense Forces

There was this village in England which took great pride in its archery. In every yard there stood a large target board showing the skills of its owner. On one of these boards every single arrow had hit a bull’s eye. A curious visitor asked the owner: how is this possible? The reply: “Simple. First I shoot the arrows, and then I draw the circles around them.”

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The Redemption of Shimon Peres

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World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum

If there is a God, he surely has a sense of humor. The career of Shimon Peres, who is about to finish his term as president of Israel, is clear evidence. Here is a life-long politician, who has never won an election. Here is the world-renowned Man of Peace, who has started several wars and never done anything for peace. Here is the most popular political figure in Israel who for most of his life was hated and despised.

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The (Very) Early Beginnings of an Iranian-Israeli Detente?

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Pictured: Benjamin Netanyahu and Hassan Rouhani

“If the Palestinians are happy with the solution [Israel-Palestinian negotiations] then nobody outside Palestine [including Iran] could prevent that from taking place.” – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Pictured: Benjamin Netanyahu and Hassan Rouhani

Just the other week news broke that Iranian President Rouhani had decided to give the Dr. Sapir Hospital and Charity Center, Tehran’s Jewish Hospital, $400,000 on behalf of the government. This followed Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s remarks on Monday that “if the Palestinians are happy with the solution [an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal] then nobody outside Palestine could prevent that from taking place,” which despite some domestic backtracking was seen as a signal of Iran’s willingness to one day recognize Israel under the right conditions.

This remarkable shift in tone coming from Iran has been noted in Israel as well. According to a recent report from Al-Monitor, the recent changes in Tehran have been “inspiring great hope” in Israel’s defense establishment. So much so, it appears, that Israel defense minister Moshe Ya’alon was willing to sit in the front row of a German TV interview with Zarif – a rare sight indeed. All this follows Israeli President Shimon Peres’s recent tweet that “as far as Israel is concerned we are ready to make peace with the Iranian people, historically they have never been our enemies.”

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Twitter Diplomacy at Davos

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Pictured: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Photos: Jolanda Flubacher and RÈmy Steinegger

“We extend our hand for peace, including to the Iranian people, but today was a great occasion that was missed.” – Israeli President Shimon Peres

Pictured: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photos: Jolanda Flubacher and RÈmy Steinegger

It’s not on par with Nixon going to China, but in Davos, Switzerland, the site of the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of politicos and economic and social leaders, Iran and Israel have taken the first “baby steps” in creating a thaw in their relations.  While the moment in “Twitter diplomacy” is unlikely going to translate into direct trade or even a handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but considering how relations have been between Iran and Israel for the past several decades, it would be safe to characterize an exchange, even via Twitter, as historic.  Up until the election of Hassan Rouhani, the only exchanges between Israel and Iran were to hurl insults at one another and accuse each other of undermining the security of the other.

With Iran agreeing to the Geneva agreement and suspending uranium enrichment above 5 percent, halting the installation of centrifuges and stopping construction on a heavy-water reactor, the momentum is building for normalized or even a working relationship with the West. While Iran has argued for the past decade that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, the West has accused the Islamic Republic of operating a nuclear program for the development of nuclear-weapons capabilities. “Ingrained skepticism about the good faith of the Islamic regime remains one of the main sources that could endanger the process,” Francois Nicoullaud, France’s former ambassador to Iran, told Bloomberg. “The quality of Iran’s implementation of the Geneva agreement will reduce such obstacles.” The dilemma for the West is whether to throw away any opportunities at semi-normalized relations or build upon any opportunities that present themselves.

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The Complex Israeli: Ariel Sharon, 1928-2014

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Menachem Begin (left) meeting with Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. Photo: Saar Yaacov

In the middle of the 70s, Ariel Sharon asked me to arrange something for him - a meeting with Yasser Arafat. A few days before, the Israeli media had discovered that I was in regular contact with the leadership of the PLO, which was listed at the time as a terrorist organization.

Menachem Begin (left) meeting with Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. Photo: Saar Yaacov

I told Sharon that my PLO contacts would probably ask what he intended to propose to the Palestinians. He told me that his plan was to help the Palestinians to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, and turn Jordan into a Palestinian state, with Arafat as its president. “What about the West Bank?” I asked. “Once Jordan becomes Palestine, there will no longer be a conflict between two peoples, but between two states. That will be much easier to resolve. We shall find some form of partition, territorial or functional, or we shall rule the territory together.”

My friends submitted the request to Arafat, who laughed it off. But he did not miss the opportunity to tell King Hussein about it. Hussein disclosed the story to a Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, and that’s how it came back to me. Sharon’s plan was revolutionary at the time. Almost the entire Israeli establishment – including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres - believed in the so-called “Jordanian option”: the idea that we must make peace with King Hussein. The Palestinians were either ignored or considered arch-enemies, or both.

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An Israeli-Iranian Dialogue: Why Not?

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Pictured: Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, Hassan Rouhani and Ali Khamenei

In early December, Israeli President Shimon Peres stated that he was willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Pictured: Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, Hassan Rouhani and Ali Khamenei

The Israeli and Iranian media have not paid much attention to this statement so far, probably assuming that such a meeting is unlikely to happen and that the individuals lack the power to cut a deal. Peres’ position as Israeli President is largely ceremonial and the real power is vested in Bibi Netanyahu as Prime Minister. For Iran, although President Rouhani runs the government, ultimate power is vested in Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei. Logic might suggest - therefore - that there is little in Peres’ offer. A deeper look into the issue, however, reveals a very different story.

Peres has been a major figure in Middle Eastern politics for over six decades. He understands that reducing tension with Tehran would serve Israeli interests in many arenas. Iran has its fingers in almost all the region’s pies. Several of Iran’s allies pose real threats to Israeli national security, most notably Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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Self-Boycott

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President Barack Obama speaks at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Soweto, South Africa, Dec. 10, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

Can a country boycott itself? That may sound like a silly question. It is not. At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the “Giant of History” as Barack Obama called him, Israel was not represented by any of its leaders.

President Barack Obama speaks at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Soweto, South Africa, Dec. 10, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

The only dignitary who agreed to go was the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, a nice person, an immigrant from the Soviet Union and a settler, who is so anonymous that most Israelis would not recognize him. (“His own father would have trouble recognizing him in the street,” somebody joked.)

Why? The President of the State, Shimon Peres, caught a malady that prevented him from going, but which did not prevent him from making a speech and receiving visitors on the same day. Well, there are all kinds of mysterious microbes.

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President Obama in the Middle East

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Pete Souza/White House

Pete Souza/White House

Photos from President Barack Obama’s three-day trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. While in the Middle East Obama met with several of the regions leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and give an address to Israeli youth in Jerusalem. The trip however is unlikely to jumpstart the stalled Arab-Israeli Peace Process.

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A One-State Solution is the only way Forward for Israel and Palestine

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Mitt Romney’s comments about Israel parroted the US Zionist lobby. Abir Sultan/EPA

How should the world react when a supposedly democratic state can’t acknowledge a 40-year-old occupation?

Mitt Romney’s comments about Israel parroted the US Zionist lobby. Abir Sultan/EPA

When US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel during a visit this weekend, he was playing into this mass delusion, and mouthing the official position of the American Zionist lobby. It is a fallacy that runs right through Israel, self-described as the Middle East’s only democracy, where a recent government-backed report by retired Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy found that its decades-long occupation of Palestinian land wasn’t an occupation at all. The report granted quasi-legal justification for illegally moving Jews into the West Bank. There are now at least 600,000 Jewish colonists squatting on Palestinian land in direct contravention of international law. But for the Zionist state, the occupation is merely a God-given right to populate land.

The lie was proved when Israeli officials, leaders and dutiful Zionist lobbyists in the West spent decades claiming the occupation was temporary and arguing that Palestinian land and natural resources for Israeli use were solely motivated by security concerns. The occupation can apparently be ignored forever. Soon enough, a person like Levy will be found to create a legal fiction and legitimise what the whole world knows to be illegal. The US issues muted criticism, while Australia doesn’t have an independent foreign policy when it comes to Israel, meekly following American and Israeli dictates, and colonisation continues apace.

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Profiting from Patience: Why Israel Should Not Act Unilaterally Against Iran

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Israeli military units conducting exercises. Photo: Ori Shifrin

“As Prime Minister, I will never gamble with the security of the State of Israel.” – Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech to AIPAC, March 5, 2012

Israeli military units conducting exercises. Photo: Ori Shifrin

Even before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the stage at the 2012 AIPAC conference, the crowd of more than 13,000 participants knew what the topic of his speech would be: Iran. Speaking with passion unmatched by any of the other notable speakers, including US President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres, PM Netanyahu used biblical quotes, touching personal stories, and unbridled rhetoric to ensure that those in attendance understood that Israel would no longer stand by as Iran developed a nuclear weapons program.

His speech made it clear that Israel was losing patience with the diplomatic approach that has been favored by President Obama, and that Israel was seriously considering unilateral military action. This threat, credible or not, would not create the stability that PM Netanyahu seeks for his country. On the contrary, unilateral military action by Israel could possibly be the worst course of action available. Iran’s search for nuclear weapons has created a regional and global political environment that is substantially more beneficial to Israel than ever before. Such an environment would no longer exist should Israel pursue pre-emptive military action.

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Why Iran will Compromise this Time

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House, July 6, 2010. Pete Souza/White House

As we inch closer to the crucial nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers, the so-called P5+1, the primordial question is whether this time will be different: Is Tehran willing to make necessary compromises – from greater nuclear transparency to more stringent restrictions on its enrichment activities - to reverse the economic siege that is bringing the country close to the edge? Is she going to use the talks as a delaying tactic or will she finally strike a mutually-acceptable deal with the West?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House, July 6, 2010. Pete Souza/White House

From the perspective of the Iranian leadership, with sanctions beginning to squeeze the Iranian economy - atop intensifying threats of military invasion and a growing Western naval presence in the Persian Gulf - the nuclear impasse is worryingly morphing into a question of regime survival. Sure, the regime has significant resources – both financial and military – as its disposal to head-off growing international isolation, and pursue its nuclear program, but growing external pressure can affect the very foundation of Iran’s trillion-dollar industrializing economy. Moreover, growing economic uncertainty – compounding decades-long structural economic challenges - could also impact the country’s very social cohesion, amidst lingering discontent among certain quarters of the population.

This is precisely why this time could be different, and there are no shortages of diplomatic overtures on the part of Iran, signaling Tehran’s interest in resolving the crisis. If there is one thing that is consistent with the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is her undying instinct for self-preservation. Moreover, the Iranian regime is anything but monolithic: even within the upper echelons of the politico-military leadership, pragmatic forces have always sought to prevent any crisis or conflict, which would endanger the country’s territorial integrity. After all, the 1979 Iranian Revolution was nationalistic: its founding principles emphasized Iran’s territorial integrity and independence.

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The Internal Debate over Israel’s Identity

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Shimon Peres, the president of Israel.  Peres urged Israelis to protest against religious extremism in Beit Shemesh.  Source: GPO

Protests between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israelis centered in the town of Beit Shemesh, Israel have shed light on a trend line.

Shimon Peres, the president of Israel. Peres urged Israelis to protest against religious extremism in Beit Shemesh. Source: GPO

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, and reported by The Jerusalem Post, the population of Israel, including the occupied territories is 7,836,000 million, of which, 5,901,000 are Jews. Protests earlier in the week ended with one police officer being wounded after several hundred ultra-Orthodox men objected when the police removed a sign that ordered women in Beit Shemesh to walk on the opposite side of the street from men. While a majority of Israeli Jews would define themselves as secular Jews, within Israel 10% of the population is ultra-Orthodox. Importantly, ultra-Orthodox Jews have a high birth rate, which translates into a clash of ideals between secularists and Orthodox Jews, like that unfolding in Beit Shemesh.

The protests between these two passionate groups began after reports by Israeli media of an eight year-old girl, Naama Margolese, who while walking home from school was harassed by Orthodox men in the town of Beit Shemesh. Although the girl and her family consider themselves Orthodox Jews, this fact has not appeased the Orthodox men of Beit Shemesh who are demanding that in all facets of life, Beit Shemesh must be segregated. This translates into men and women being separated along gender lines on public transportation and on sidewalks. This interpretation of religious law would also apply to attire that women wear in public. Ultra-Orthodox men in Beit Shemesh often complain that the women and girls of Beit Shemesh dress like prostitutes and need to practice “modesty” in public.

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Understanding Tunisia’s Elections Results

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An elderly man casts his vote in Tunis. Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti

In early 1994 a small Islamic think tank affiliated with the University of South Florida (USF) planned an academic forum to host Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the main opposition party in Tunisia, Ennahdha.

An elderly man casts his vote in Tunis. Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti

The objective of this annual event was to give Western academics and intellectuals a rare opportunity to engage an Islamically-oriented intellectual or political leader at a time when the political discourse was dominated by Samuel Huntington’s much hyped clash of civilizations thesis. Shortly after the public announcement of the event, pro-Israeli groups and advocates led by Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson, the head of the local B’nai B’rith, and a small-time journalist for the local rightwing newspaper began a coordinated campaign to discredit the event and scare the university.

According to Arthur Lowrie, a former State Department official who was an adjunct professor at USF at the time, AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups exerted enormous pressure on the State Department to rescind its visa to Ghannouchi two weeks after it was issued in London. Consequently the university had to cancel the event, despite the strong protests by more than two-dozen scholars and academics. As a result, a valuable encounter between western intellectuals and opinion makers on the one hand, and a major figure in the Islamic world on the other, was obstructed because of a foreign agenda of a small but powerful interest group.

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