Foreign Ministry Dir.-Gen: Israel must meet int'l standards on several issues.
By HERB KEINON
Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom's much publicized handshake with his Pakistani counterpart last August represents just a smattering of the activity between Israel and the Islamic world taking place behind the scenes, Foreign Ministry Director-General Ron Prosor said Sunday.
Prosor also said Israel needed to jettison the "ghetto mentality of a nation that dwells alone" and begin thinking and behaving "like a normal country and a responsible member in the international community."
These words were said not in the context of Israel's conflict with the Arabs, but rather in a wider global context. For example, Prosor said that as a responsible and enlightened nation, Israel needed to meet international standards on a number of issues such as contributing a part of its GNP to developing nations, fighting trafficking in human beings, upholding intellectual property laws and - "last but not least" - supervising its "security exports."
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, he said the Israeli-Pakistani handshake and Shalom's trip to Tunisia in November were only the "tip of the iceberg" of activity between Israel and Islamic countries taking place beyond the camera's lens. [View live coverage of the conference.]
"At this time, we prefer quiet activity on the ground, with an emphasis on economic cooperation, rather than ceremonies and meetings covered in the press," Prosor said.
He revealed no details, other than to say that this activity was taking place in the Persian Gulf, the Maghreb and among Islamic countries in Asia.
Contacts with these countries were an important factor in fighting terrorism by "strengthening" the moderate elements in the region, he said.
Prosor's comments came a few days after his former boss, Shalom, was questioned repeatedly - after he quit the Foreign Ministry and gave parting speeches and interviews - about what tangible results he had to show for the impression he created during his tenure that normalization with 10 Arab countries was just around the corner.
Prosor said increased dialogue and cooperation would "help widen the support for peace among Palestinians and in the Arab and Islamic world." He said "widening the circle of peace and dialogue from the level of leaders to the wider public" was a vital objective at the top of Israel's diplomatic agenda.
Regarding the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, he said the participation of terrorist organizations in the elections was the "Trojan horse" that could destroy democracy from the inside.
"If the Palestinians let Hamas determine their fate in Wednesday's elections, the chance for peace between the two peoples will decline," he said.
Prosor said it was necessary to be on guard so that procedural democracy did not become a "fig leaf" for organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah, which are ideologically opposed to substantive democracy. "These organizations will destroy democratic values if they win positions of influence through involvement in the 'democratic game," he said.
Prosor also said the growing influence and importance of international coalitions, organizations and NGOs has propelled Israel to significantly change its attitude toward the UN.
"The days are past when Israel sat on the side and accepted discriminatory polices from UN bodies. Today we fight," Prosor said. He said Israel has given up its defensive mode, and rather taken the offensive to end its isolation inside the UN and the "delegitimization of Israel, which has characterized the UN for decades."