(photo credit: REUTERS)
LOS ANGELES – Four young women heckled Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman just 11 minutes into his address to the JNF National Conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on Monday morning.
“What about Gazan children?” one of them shrieked as Lieberman spoke about the importance of Jewish education.
Amidst cries and catcalls, the women were escorted from the ballroom amid cheers from the hundreds of attendees.
Not missing a beat, Liberman took a breath and said to raucous applause: “I really was surprised that this provocation took so much time.”
Turning serious once more, Liberman spoke to the appreciative crowd about everything from Operation Protective Edge and Hamas to Islamic State and the prospects of peace in Israel.
He said the biggest problem in the Middle East today is the disparity between the small number of oligarchs in the reason and 90 percent of the region’s population.
“It’s wealth versus poverty,” he said. “To coexist you need a strong middle class and [that] doesn’t exist in the Middle East. The second biggest problem, he noted, is “the morals and values,” in the Arab world. “We see more and more fanatics from terrorist organizations. This is not just a threat to Israel, today it’s a threat to the entire world.”
He also stated that it is impossible to split the terrorists into good and bad terrorists.
“Today the focus is only on ISIS. But it’s impossible to divide al-Qaida, ISIS, Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah. All of them [are] the same.”
Also of great concern, he said, is that the real problem of the terrorist organizations is their goal to become terrorist states. “In the past there have been small terrorist organizations without territory or nationality,” he said. “Today for the first time we see they are trying to become states – ISIS, Boko Haram in Nigeria, even in Lebanon Hezbollah has become a semi-independent state. Hamas has established their own state in the Gaza Strip.”
He spoke of Iran being the “only current terrorist state” and its influence in the Arab world with its sponsorship of Hezbollah and how people have forgotten that that regime has slaughtered 200,000 people and displaced 7 million in Syria. “We must take this into account when we speak about the challenges around Israel.”
And speaking of those challenges, he addressed his views on Operation Protective Edge, saying he believes it is necessary to topple Hamas as a psychological tool. He said he feels not doing so was a “ big mistake.”