Days after US President Donald Trump phoned Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and urged him to finally make peace with Israel, a top Israeli government official said Abbas is not a genuine partner for peace.
“Israel is just telling the truth about Abu Mazen’s [Mahmoud Abbas] extreme positions, which negate the existence of [Israel] as a Jewish state,” National Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) told Israel Radio.
Abbas is expected to visit the White House at Trump’s invitation in the coming months.
Before that happens, Abbas is hoping to forge some kind of unity amongst the fractious organizations - both political and military - that make up the Palestinian Authority.
At an urgent meeting called in Ramallah on Sunday, Abbas stressed that “national” unity was needed in order effectively negotiate with the new American president.
The fact that Abbas does not have effective control of the territories supposedly under his rule has been a major sticking point for Israel when it comes to making land concessions.
For instance, the Palestinian Authority was supposed to govern the Gaza Strip following Israel’s withdrawal, but the coastal enclave was quickly and easily seized by Hamas.
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European officials say that Saudi Arabia is just as concerned as Israel over the details of the nuclear agreement the Obama Administration is currently negotiating with Iran, and is even prepared to facilitate an Israeli airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, should it come to that.
“The Saudis have declared their readiness for the Israeli Air Force to overfly Saudi air space en route to attack Iran if an attack is necessary,” an unnamed senior European diplomat was cited as saying by Israel’s Channel 2 News.
The source added that Saudi Arabia is “completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran.”
The one condition Riyadh reportedly had for providing this kind of assistance is some kind of tangible progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The report, if credible, is a major blow to the Obama Administration, which insists that Israel’s urgent criticism of its proposed deal with Iran is unwarranted.
“Anybody running around right now jumping in to say, ‘Well we don’t like the deal,’ or this or that, doesn’t know what the deal is,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional hearing on Tuesday.
Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, responded by suggesting that perhaps it’s Kerry that lacks the full picture.
“We know all we need to know, and we have an excellent picture of the negotiations,” Steinitz told Israeli media. “Maybe [Kerry] doesn’t know everything we know.”
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Israel is fearful that a collapse of peace talks with the Palestinians could result in an international boycott and isolation. In fact, even the Americans have been warning of such an outcome.
But, it is important to remember that Israel has no shortage of loyal friends. Some of those friends recently came to Israel under the banner of the “Friends of Israel Initiative” to hold their annual meeting.
The gathering was addressed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.
More impressive, however, was the list of participants, which included former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (pictured), former Uruguayan President Luis Alberto Lacalle, former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, former Italian Foreign Minister Julio Tarazi, former Czech Foreign Minister Karl Schwarzenberg, Nobel laureate and former First Minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble, and the head of British military forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp.
The group also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, who told the Friends of Israel that he hoped they, as distinguished former heads of state and leading politicians, could help explain the truth about Israel.
The Friends of Israel Initiative was established in 2010 to fight against efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state and to reaffirm Israel’s right to exist in peace and security alongside its neighbors.
The movement actively opposes any attempts to boycott. Aznar, who is the organization’s founder and current chairman, has forged a very friendly relationship with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.
In a statement to the Israeli press, Aznar had this to say:
"The [Friends of Israel] Initiative is neither a Public Relations campaign, nor a so-called Jewish lobby. Most of us are not Jewish, but we share the vision - as much one of values as of strategy - that when defending Israel we are defending the West. We are defending our way of life and values, and also our interests.
"Simply put, Europe must defend Israel if we want to preserve the West as we know it. Look at the changes sweeping the region. Uncertainty is the dominant factor. And Israel is both more important to the West today - and more besieged by hostility - than at any time in recent memory.
“Indeed, when considering the full picture of the strategic relationship (including not just diplomacy, but the equally critical realms of security; economy; and science) the close nature of the EU-Israel alliance becomes clear. Not only is Israel’s relationship with the EU and its member states closer than commonly portrayed, but, in the final analysis, it represents a strategic asset to the Union and its members.”
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