Veteran Israeli diplomat Dore Gold discusses current Gaza crisis for AIJAC

May 16, 2021 by J-Wire News Service
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Ambassador Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, former Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, proved an update on the situation in Israel for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s (AIJAC’s) latest webinar on May 12.

Longtime Israeli diplomat Dore Gold, currently president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

He explained that there are many factors that had affected the calculus of Israel’s adversaries. Ramadan can be a time for a small, dangerous minority to exploit the environment to initiate jihad, recruiting young Palestinians for violence, he said.

Considering whether violence in Jerusalem was spontaneous, or pre-planned and incited for political purposes, he said, “I have to say that the evidence that this is something that was incited and planned is overwhelming.” He noted that Hamas had been pre-positioning the implements used for the violence on the Temple Mount against the security forces and Jews worshipping at the Western Wall.

Another important factor, he said, is Iran. While expectations were the JCPOA nuclear deal Iran signed in 2015 would moderate its behaviour, the opposite occurred.

There were many new pro-Iranian militia formed, and the Houthis in Yemen escalated their violence. The activities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including Hamas’ decision to launch the current war, should, he said, be seen in the context of an environment of escalating Iranian proxies.

He believes Hamas has two goals. The Abraham Accords are one of the biggest sources of defeat for Iran and its allies, having seen Israel and Arab states cooperating, so a goal of the violence is to break the Accords, which, he added, would be against the interests of the West too.

He revealed that the Jerusalem Center had developed ties with Gulf think tanks, and these events had made people there concerned, but still with a fundamental interest in warm relations with Israel. However, Gold thought this could come under potential strain if the violence drags out.

Hamas’ other goal, he said, is to break the momentum of Israeli Arabs becoming “Israelised” – feeling part of Israeli society, the most powerful example of which is the Arab political party Ra’am participating in coalition discussions. He said it’s “huge” that an Israeli-Arab political party is choosing moderation over extremism.

He is very concerned that some mixed Jewish/Arab Israeli towns are exploding, with Arabs attacking Jews, saying this is a success for the Hamas operation.

He says it will take a long time, and patience, for Israel to defeat the force it is dealing with, but Israel has special skills that will allow it to prevail, including very good internal and external intelligence agencies, which allow it to pinpoint its enemies.

 

He noted that some had suggested simply carpet-bombing Gaza, but said this would not be smart or moral. He said we should take pride that Israel wages war in a moral way, “particularly when the other side is completely immoral, and uses human shields to protect its highest level officials.”

There is a danger, he said, that Hezbollah may open a second front to the north, which Israel could eventually deal with, but would be a bad situation, so Israel needs to ensure that Hezbollah is fully deterred from doing that.

He said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is weaker that ever before. At least he formally condemns violence, even though he’s not interested in an accommodation with Israel, and is echoing the Hamas approach. Gold said there is a desire to delegitimise Israel by using the bloc voting at the UN to adopt anti-Israel resolutions to get Israel to feel defeated, However, he said, that’s not going to happen “And it’s going to take…time, it’s going to take strength, but we’ll get there. And with friends like Australia, we will not feel alone.”

Asked about the claims around Sheikh Jarrah, he explained that it’s a dispute being adjudicated in court over land purchased by Jews prior to 1948, when its owners were thrown out by Jordan and Arabs moved in. The courts made an arrangement that recognised and addressed the competing claims. The Palestinians were required to pay rent after the Supreme Court finally said the land belonged to the Jews. He emphasised that it is a dispute over land, not a bunch of extremists, adding, “In the best of my recollection, [the court] was never part of an Israeli right-wing land movement. But it was something which, you know, happens in countries where there are land disputes.”

Asked what Israel’s allies like Australia should do, in light of calls to resume peace negotiations, he said the problem is we’re not in 1993, but in the middle of a war with Hamas, backed by Iran, which isn’t interested in a deal, so there needs to be a realistic appraisal, and slogans on resuming peace negotiations are not realistic, even in relation to Mahmoud Abbas.

We need to remember, he said, that when John Kerry proposed a peace deal, and Netanyahu agreed subject to reservations, Abbas’ said he would get back to them, and never did, so he is not the peace partner he is made out to be.

He added, “I think we should make an effort to come to a new, more realistic model of how we can reach an accommodation…that accommodation probably should involve some of the Arab states with whom we have peace. And maybe something can be worked out, particularly if you get the Gulf states engaged, because they have the funding, and they have the political will, to try and put some moderation into this equation of Israeli Palestinian peace.”

He noted that a press conference with Netanyahu and his political rival, Defence Minister Benny Gantz, showed them working in harmony, and suggested there may now be new options for the way the next governing coalition will be formed.

He said the current violence undercuts the Abraham Accords and any chances of other countries joining for now, but perhaps not in the future. What made them so attractive was the support from Donald Trump, so if US support fades, or the Accords seem to be dissolving, others won’t join. The leaders of the UAE and Bahrain want them to continue and expand, but what happens on the ground could play a major role.

He said that Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken may be nuanced in their comments, but they are fundamentally in Israel’s corner.

On the JCPOA nuclear deal, he said the US needs to lay out what is expected of Iran once the deal is signed. Iran has been expanding its interference in Morocco, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and needs to be made to understand that it can’t continue this behaviour.

On the Human Rights Watch report accusing Israel of Apartheid, he said that when he was Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he went to South Africa, and the diplomats there clearly didn’t think Israel is Apartheid.

On the International Criminal Court case against Israel, he said that the Palestinians will try to define settlement activity as a war crime on the basis that Israel has illegally moved its population. It’s important to disabuse the ICC of this, and to point out where real war crimes of this type are happening, such as pro-Iranian militias driving out native populations and taking over their houses. This, he said, should be shown to the international human rights community, and that will hopefully affect the Court.

He said that Australia’s decision not to attend Durban 4 is very important to Israel, especially at this time, predicting there will be an attempt to portray Israel’s self-defence against Hamas as war crimes.

 

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