'Iranian issue should top int'l agenda'

Ron Proser: Arab leaders now willing to do things they did not feel obliged to do in the past.

ron prosor 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ron prosor 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In 1998, when Ron Prosor, now ambassador-designate to the UK, became minister counselor at the embassy in Washington, he knocked on doors in the White House, the State Department and elsewhere in hopes of bringing attention to the Iranian nuclear threat. No one took him seriously. "They looked at me as an Israeli who sees the forest and no trees," Prosor said in an address to the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Now, less than a decade after he took up the Washington job, Teheran's nuclear weapons program is part and parcel of the concerns of the international community, Prosor said. As an Israeli, Prosor was understandably disturbed by the frequency with which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voiced his intention to eradicate Israel, he said, but was equally disturbed by the low-key response to this existential threat to Israel from the global community and world Jewry. "I don't see that enough is being done by the international community and the world Jewish community to put this issue as No. 1 on the agenda," he said, adding that time was not on Israel's side. Iran presented more than a nuclear threat, Prosor said, citing Teheran's help for Hamas, Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations. "Iran has a direct influence on the region, and not just the State of Israel," he said, adding pointing that Arab perceptions of Israel as a mighty military power waned after Hizbullah's successes in the Second Lebanon War. Other countries in the region were aware of the Iranian threat, he said, "and are beginning to feel the rope tightening around their necks." Prosor, who has traveled extensively in the Arab world and held many clandestine meetings with Arab leaders, said they were now willing to do things they did not feel obliged to do in the past. He did not go into details. As for the Palestinians, Prosor said that more than 80 percent of Israelis polled in 2007 believed in a two-state solution, but that the trend inside Palestinian society, "especially after what happened in Gaza," was toward a one-state solution. Prosor said everything possible should be done to strengthen Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, "because the alternative is worse than what we have now." Asked how Israel could work with Palestinian moderates, Prosor cautioned: "What we saw happening in Gaza should make us modest in trying to define the situation in our backyard. What has happened in Gaza is a clear signal that we have a radical Islamic terrorist entity at our back door." He drew a parallel between the policies of Hamas and the Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967, issued at the conclusion of a meeting between the leaders of eight Arab countries in the wake of the Six Day War. The resolution contained what became known as "the three noes," which declared that there would be no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel, and no peace with Israel. He was not prepared to talk to Hamas on that basis, he said. "Why should I be conducting talks with someone who doesn't acknowledge my right to exist?" he asked. One of Prosor's tasks as ambassador will be to counter the British boycotts of Israel. Asked what his strategy would be, he grinned and replied, "A winning one." The Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association membership are thrilled that a professional diplomat, who speaks fluent English, is finally being sent to London. The last ambassador to fit this description was Moshe Raviv, with whom Prosor worked during his previous stint in London, and whom he regards as his mentor. Raviv was succeeded by Dror Zeigerman, Zvi Stauber and Zvi Hefetz, who were all political appointees.