Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Foreign Ministry director- general Dore Gold said at the 16th annual Herzliya Conference on Wednesday that there is a “strategic convergence” between Israel and the Sunni Arab world and that the Palestinian issue is at the bottom of priorities.
In a meeting with an unnamed Middle Eastern counterpart, Gold discovered that their talking points for their meeting were almost identical, with the Palestinian issue close to the bottom of the list of issues, he said during a panel discussing the region.
“I’m not trying to play football with the Palestinian issue, but in fact, on both papers, the Palestinian issue was not the No. 1 issue. It was pretty close to the bottom.”
That does not mean Israel should not try to get a breakthrough, “but we have to realize that isn’t any more of the currency with which you build ties in much of the Arab world, the Sunni world...20-30 years ago everyone said to solve the Palestinian issue and you will have peace with the Arab world.”
“And increasingly we are becoming convinced it is the exact opposite. It is a different order we have to create,” the top Israeli diplomat added.
We have many new opportunities, as “many countries to our east fear Iranian power,” he said.
But building these relationships needs to be done cautiously, he said, without necessarily making them public.
However, Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, called the Israeli government “the most right-wing” and poured cold water on any Israeli plans to normalize relations with the Arab world.
“Israel claims normalization with Arab countries is under way, but this is nothing but an attempt to mislead,” he asserted, going on to explain that this would not happen as long as there is no progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
Also on the panel, Edward Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argued that Iraq, Syria, and even Turkey would not remain the same territorial states as they once were and that their borders would be altered due to the ongoing regional violence.
Salman Shaikh, the former director of Brookings Doha Center and founder and CEO of the Shaikh Group, sought to play down the Shi’ite-Sunni dynamic of the conflict, saying that fundamentally the regional problems are political and have taken on sectarian overtones.
He asserted that Iran has the biggest influence in Syria, not Russia.
Josh Block, president and CEO of the Israel Project, noted that a Jordanian diplomat had told him that Turkey is funding Islamic State.
In a separate speech, Maj.- Gen. Herzi Halevi, head of IDF Intelligence, noted that unlike in the past when there were a few states, now there are many actors.
Regarding Iran he said, “The nuclear agreement was a great achievement for Iran, allowing them to be accepted among the world’s nations, and we believe they will honor it for the first few years.”
At the same time, continued Halevi, “Iran is investing great efforts against Israel,” including support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad.
On the Palestinian front, he said action by Israeli security forces has led to a drop in the number of terrorist attacks since last October.