Deputy FM Ayalon told the audience of high-level diplomats, media and academia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the central conflict in the Middle East. However, Israel is doing all it can to end the conflict. Ayalon pointed the finger at Iran for being at the source of all the problems in the region.

 Deputy FM Ayalon addresses IISS on Mideast issues

 

Deputy FM Ayalon addressing the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London (Photo: MFA)

(Communicated by the Bureau of Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon)

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon spoke on Monday (8 February 2010) at the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Ayalon spoke on the subject of ‘The Middle East: Challenges and Opportunities’.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict not central conflict to the region, Arab world not developing quickly enough

The Deputy Foreign Minister explained to the audience of high-level diplomats, media and academia that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the central conflict in the Middle East. "Today, the Israeli-Palestinian is only one piece of an unsolved puzzle in the Middle East which also has to deal with the Iranian threat, the situations in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan-Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, and the list goes on," Ayalon said. "It is even more fundamental that we address the water shortage and other basic needs."

Ayalon cited a recent United Nations development report, compiled in part with Arab experts, which stated that 40% of the Arab world lives below the poverty line. "For the Arab world to maintain its current position, which is at the lowest rung on the ladder, then it will need to create 51 million jobs in the next ten years," Ayalon continued. "Resources in our region need to be divided in an equitable manner and we hope to integrate into a regional system that can be for the betterment of all".

Continuing on the theme of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as only one part of the wider Middle East, Ayalon said that there has always been flashpoints in the region. "From 1948, 11 million Muslims have died in conflicts and only less than one half of one percent were killed in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, whereas over 90% were killed by fellow Muslims," Ayalon explained.

Parties about to start proximity talks

However, Ayalon explained that Israel is doing all it can to end the conflict. "We have been waiting patiently, but urgently, at the negotiating table since the inception of this government over ten months ago for the Palestinians to join us," Ayalon said. "We are confident that the Palestinian leadership will accept the Mitchell guidelines which call for a resumption of peace talks, even if it will be proximity talks. Proximity talks are not our first choice, but they are better than no talks."

Iran as source of region’s problems, Syria gateway to Iran

Ayalon pointed the finger at Iran for being at the source of all the problems in the region. "If the Iranian issue is solved, the region will only be the better for it," Ayalon said. "Iran uses its nuclear ambitions as the means to create a regional hegemony."

Referring to Syria as a the gateway for Iran into the region, Ayalon said: "There are confusing and contradictory statements emanating from Damascus. However, at the end of the day we will judge Syria by its actions and not its words. Syria is dependent on Iran and provides Hizbullah with long-range missiles aimed at Israel as well as supporting and hosting ten terror organizations in Damscus. The latest heightened rhetoric with Syria is because of Iran. Only Iran benefits from heightened tension in the region to deter attention from its nuclear weapons program. It is clear that when the Iranian issue is resolved, Syria will become more amenable."

International community should not neglect internal Iranian repression

Ayalon also addressed the internal Iranian situation. "The international community should not neglect the Iranian people and call to task the Iranian regime, not just on the nuclear issue, but also on their appalling human rights record. The international community should not look the other way and support the Iranian people against the brutal regime," Ayalon said.

Referring to recent conflagrations, Israel sometimes needs to act like neighbors, reciprocate and react to dangerous rhetoric

During the question and answer session, the Deputy Foreign Minister was asked about the state of Israel’s foreign relations regarding recent conflagrations with Turkey and Syria. "Sometimes Israel has to reciprocate and act like its neighbors where we will not mince words and will react to dangerous rhetoric emanating from our neighbors," Ayalon answered.