Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein cautioned ambassadors and diplomats on Tuesday not to raise expectations for a diplomatic breakthrough at a special conference held in honor of the jubilee year of the parliamentary building.
The full-day event at the Knesset was attended by diplomats from more than 70 countries around the world, including Egypt and Jordan.
As part of the event, Edelstein lit a hanukkia together with students from the American International School, including children of ambassadors who attended.
“Peace is a very nice slogan, but to be quite frank with you, peace is not around the corner,” Edelstein said. “Our idea of peace is the perfect nightmare of countries like Iran and terrorists like Hezbollah and ISIS.”
The dean of the diplomatic corps, Cameroon’s Henri Etoundi Essomba, responded that he still hoped normalization between Israel and neighboring countries would be forthcoming.
“Despite what the speaker said about peace not being ripe to be achieved, we believe the Knesset will continue to play its role in bringing about the conditions for the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians,” he said.
Edelstein revealed that he has been asked for advice by his counterparts in Europe on how to handle terrorism. He said he has responded that countries must protect their citizens, even if it means changing laws to enable combating terrorism properly.
“Saying you will not change anything because it would constitute giving into terror sounds nice but the reality does not work that way,” Edelstein said. “Not letting terrorists hijack democracy will unfortunately be a problem in more and more countries in the near future.”
Countering claims that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over territory, Edelstein – who owns a home in the Neveh Daniel settlement – noted that the Knesset had to have a special entrance to protect the MKs from sniper fire in 1965, two years before there was a single soldier or settler in the West Bank.
“It takes a tour of this building to understand that Judea and Samaria and the so-called occupation cannot be the problem,” he said.
Later on, Likud MK Avi Dichter and Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit sparred in a debate in front of the ambassadors moderated by Jerusalem Post editor in chief Steve Linde.
A former Shin-Bet chief, Dichter said events in the Middle East were often unexpected, citing the Arab Spring that took intelligence agencies around the world by surprise.
“The Middle East suffered an earthquake,” he said. “I don’t know where it was on the Richter scale but it was a nine on the Dichter scale.”
Dichter said that thanks to ISIS, Israel was no longer being blamed for the Middle East’s problems. He predicted that in 10 years, no one would remember the late al-Qaida leader Osama Bin-Laden.
Margalit and Dichter disagreed over the current Palestinian Authority leadership.
Dichter complained that failed Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat paid a condolence call to the family of a terrorist who murdered an innocent Israel. He said no American or French cabinet minister would do the same for terrorists who perpetrated recent attacks in those countries.
But Margalit said he still had hope for diplomatic progress with current Palestinian leaders as part of a regional alliance against extremists.
He stressed the need to focus on economic development to bring about an agreement with the Palestinians and Arab countries.
“It is wrong to look at the Middle East through the eyes of a gun,” Margalit said.
“There are hubs of development throughout the region. There is a lot of entrepreneurship going on.”