A number of Israel's top political and military leaders convened in Herzliya on Thursday for The Jerusalem Post's second annual Diplomatic Conference with Noam Tibon, the commander of the IDF Northern Corps, speaking last to address issues facing Israel from a security perspective.
Tibon noted that Syrian civil war is no longer an internal war, but rather a war that has scene many factions, groups and countries sending fighters to take various sides in the conflict, including Iran and Hezbollah.He added his belief that Syrian President Bashar Assad "is continuing to struggle inside Syria against the rebels."Though the IDF is "not taking any sides," Tibon hilighted Israel's ongoing decision to offer humanitarian aide to those suffering from the Syrian conflict. He also spoke about the IDF's monitoring of weapons transfers between Hezbollah and Syria and promised that the "IDF will do everything in its power to prevent it."Drawing on his 30 years of experience serving in the IDF, Tibon discussed the ongoing threat of terrorism and how it has changed over the years."I don't think the recent attacks on Israelis are organized, but there is still a feeling for potential terrorists that they can carry out attacks, and we must stop this," Tibon said.The head of French Jewry's largest umbrella organization decried the anti-Israel sentiment in Europe as a new form of anti-Semitism.Roger Cukierman, the president of CRIF, told The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Thursday that kneejerk criticism of Israel is a convenient cover for those who harbor anti-Jewish animus."Anti-Zionism is a new form of anti-Semitism because it is not elegant to be anti-Semitic," Cukierman said.The CRIF president used his address to mention Marine Le Pen, the prominent nationalist politician who heads France's third largest party. Cukierman told the attendees in Herzliya that while he did not believe Le Pen was anti-Semitic, "she has surrounded herself with Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites."Senior Contributing Editor for The Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick, focused her speech on the role of the European Union in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."They (the EU) are conditioning the European public to view Israeli products as inferior," Glick said, addressing the decision by the EU to declare that all products made in settlements in the West Bank must be labeled as such."A law that is applied to only one country is not a legal norm," she said. Glick contended that instead of helping along the peace process, "they are minimizing the chance for Israel and the PLO to sign an agreement."Glick pointed to the 'activist' approach from Europe as the central change in European policy regarding Israel."We have to recognize that the EU's policies towards Israel has become more hostile in recent years," Glick said."They need to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to the other side," she added, "and we have to stop believing their habit of saying that they are pro-peace, because their actions on the ground are actually inhibiting the peace process."British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould reassured Israel over concern that Western powers are being lulled into a false sense of security in talks with Iran."We are not going to do a bad deal nor will we stand by as the Iranians continue to develop nuclear weapons," Gould declared.Gould was quick to address Britain's decision not to take military action against Syria, a move that Gould says he was told by many had made Israelis feel isolated."Iran is not Syria," Gould stated, "President Rouhani should know that our resolve to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is as strong as ever, as is our resolve to ensure that Israel maintains its level of security.""Iran's program goes far beyond the requirements of a civilian program," Gould said. Iran has consistently insisted that its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only.Drawing on key personal experiences of political dealings with Iran, Gould said that Iran's climate of political corruption and chaos means that economic sanctions are being very effective, especially considering the amount of which Iran relies on its oil reserve."The government is under unprecedented pressure due to the sanctions," Gould said, "Iran knows the only way to evade these sanctions is to give the international community, including Israel, the necessary proof that its nuclear program intentions are indeed peaceful."Words will have to be "matched by actions," the British Ambassador declared. As long as Iran shows signs of reneging on commitments, Britain will continue to press forward with strong economic sanctions.Still, Gould conceded that "Iran's nuclear program is marching forward and the clock is ticking."Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was the third speaker to take the stage and immediately dove into addressing the complexities facing Israel, including the challenge of incorporating Jewish values into national ideals of democracy."I believe that we can and should have these two basic values of a Jewish, Israeli state, working together in harmony," Livni declared.The Hatnua leader spoke of the intricacies of Jewish identity and national identity and discussed the need to work together with the Ultra-Orthodox sector as an important part of Israeli society.She also spoke about the difficulty of those living in Israel who are considered 'non-Jews,' especially those who have immigrated from Russia, to marry and be fully included in Israeli society. While Livni admitted that she has no authority to change Jewish law, she feels that it is an important issue that must be considered.
Livni then switched over to the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, negotiations for which she has served as the key spokesperson for Israel."We have the force and we have the power, but in order to use this power we must make sure that we have the legitimacy to act," Livni said. These words seemed to address a tendency in international media to portray the conflict as a story of David versus Goliath.While Livni has been a proponent of a movement pushing for 'two states for two peoples,' she said she understood that there is another side to the dialogue and that there are those in Israel who believe in the idea of a greater Israel and are not willing to relinquish territory in peace negotiations. Still, using terrorist attacks as a reason to put an end to negotiations is a mistake, she asserted."Security is not an ideology, it is a necessity, it is something we as leaders need to give to our people," Livni said. The Justice Minister pointed to Syria's decision to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal as a small sign that there are positive results stemming from international diplomatic efforts to stabilize the Middle East.However she said that the threat of using force, in the case of Iran, is "the best way to avoid the need to use force."She admitted a feeling of uneasiness when US President Barrack Obama displayed a hesitancy to use force as reports of Syria's chemical weapons use began to light up the media. Yet, she ultimately concluded that the positive outcome proved that the right actions were taken.During his appearance at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Herzliya on Thursday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that any final-status deal with the Palestinians will not include a partition of Jerusalem.
The finance minister did indicate that an agreement would require the "removal of thousands of settlers" from the West Bank.Lapid also lashed out at critics of Israel whom he said fail to understand the "complexity" of the conflict with the Palestinians.Decrying the "BDS influence" on the United Nations, the finance minister said that NGOs see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the prism of "strong against weak.""It's a miserable intellectual argument" made by "useful idiots," Lapid said. "The UN isn't leading on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is being dragged along by what turned into the BDS movement."The finance minister said NGOs who criticized Israel's behavior toward the Palestinians were wrong to stay silent on other issues."Why are human rights activists silent over Hamas' killing of gay people in Gaza?" he said.Lapid said that "psychologists and psychiatrists, not security experts" are needed to ensure a smooth dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, who share a "deep historical mistrust" of one another.The finance minister said that Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators needed to agree on a map that would display the final borders.Lapid also said he opposed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's longstanding demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state."This demand is problematic because it undermines trust," Lapid said. "You don't create trust by insisting others lie to you."Kicking off the conference, Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde sat down with President Shimon Peres for an exclusive interview.
The first topic for discussion was Peres' views on the Iranian threat.Peres spoke of Iran's fears that an Iranian Spring may be in the making as Western economic sanctions are taking effect. "Young, angry Iranians voted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani into office not because he is a revolutionary, but because they believe that Rouhani is a moderate who will bring Iran into the modern world," Peres said. Peres added that young Iranians are less concerned about enriching Uranium and are more worried about making enough money to support themselves.The conversation turned to the issues surrounding the Middle East and Israel's explosive relationship with the Palestinians.Peres expressed his belief that solving the issues that divide Israel and the Palestinians is crucial in stabilizing a volatile Middle East.Another reason to end the conflict is that "it is the central point of criticism the world aims at Israel." Reaching a solution would effectively halt all such criticism, the president said.Peres noted that while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been branded by Likud Beytenu MK Avigdor Liberman as a 'non-partner for peace,' it is up to Israel to turn Abbas into a partner for peace and to find common ground.At the end of the interview, Peres gave Linde a few tips on how to keep going in old age."Work hard and don't take vacation," Peres said, "I don't see why other people don't do it."