Rising tensions between Israel and Iran are just a bluff and Iran’s bigger
concern is the deepening instability in the Arab world, key Jordanian journalist
and regional political commentator Salameh Nematt told The Jerusalem
Post on Thursday.
Speaking after a roundtable discussion on the future of
the Middle East at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, Nematt told the
Post that Iran’s biggest threat “comes from the countries immediately
surrounding it, especially those in the gulf region.”
“Israel is the last
thing on the list for them but they need to keep up the hostility against it in
order to prove their credentials to the Arabs,” he said.
Nematt, a former
Washington bureau chief for the Al-Hayat international Arabic daily and former
international editor and contributor at The Daily Beast, said he was sure that
if Iran was eventually faced with real confrontation from Israel or the
international community, it would most likely “back down quickly from the
He also said that he believed that the Israeli government would
back down from all-out war.
The award-winning journalist, who was joined
at the session by other top policy strategists and security experts from Israel
and the world, said he believed that Iran could find a way to be pragmatic and
was not, ultimately, “suicidal.”
Recipient of the Alfred Friendly Press
Award and the Eliav-Sartawi Middle Eastern Journalism Prize, Nematt said he was
not concerned that his presence at a high-profile conference in Israel would
draw criticism in Jordan. He said that the two countries have a peace agreement
and that it is not the place of the Jordan Press Association, which often takes
a harsh stance against Jordanian journalists meeting with Israelis, to be above
“The Jordanian government meets with Israelis, so why
should the press association have a problem with it?” said Nematt, who was
personally invited to the three-day event by President Shimon Peres, who
established the annual gathering of high-profile experts some four years
Asked whether he thought there was a danger – with all the changes
taking place in the region and in light of the stalled peace process between
Israelis and Palestinians – that Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan could be in
jeopardy, Nematt said it was unlikely.
“Most people in Jordan are too
concerned with the country’s internal problems,” said Nematt, describing how
most of the protests in the Hashemite Kingdom are focused on high prices, lack
of political reform and the fact that the king is not acting fast enough to make
Nematt was joined at the discussion by 12 of the region’s key
strategists and experts, including government military adviser Amos Gilad and
Efraim Halevy, one of the architects of the Jordan-Israel peace
Shalom Turgeman, who was formerly a foreign affairs adviser to
prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, moderated the
While there was little consensus from the group on where the
region is headed – especially against the backdrop of threats from Iran,
turbulence in Egypt and on-going unrest in Syria – Turgeman is now charged with
drafting a statement or policy on the future of the Middle East. The group also
discussed the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians in terms of finding
a solution to the conflict.
The only point everyone agreed upon is that
any number of scenarios for the Middle East is possible and despite the
outcomes, the world needs to find a way to work with Iran.
Most of the
experts expressed encouragement from this week’s talks in Moscow on Iran’s
disputed nuclear program, which showed that the international community is
starting to take a joint position on the issue.