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Former Israeli and Saudi officials discuss Mideast peace and Iranian threat in public forum

Posted by Albert Gersh - May 06, 2016

Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror and former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal engaged in a public discussion on regional issues at an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Thursday evening. Although the two former officials differed on the Mideast peace process, both emphasized the threat posed by Iran. Amidror asserted that Israel would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and argued that Iran was likely to make such an attempt “towards the end of the [nuclear] agreement.” Faisal warned that if Iran were to develop its own nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia would consider “all options,” including acquisition of nuclear weapons.
On the issue of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Prince al-Faisal insisted on negotiations based on Saudi Arabia’s proposal, the Arab Peace Initiative, while Amidror urged the “creation of an umbrella of cooperation between Arab States and Israel” to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. He noted that the Palestinian leadership had turned down several Israeli offers for statehood, and suggested that by establishing cooperation between the Arab states and Israel, it would be “easier for the Palestinians to negotiate... They will understand that they have more to lose if they’re not taking part in the new cooperation of the Middle East.”The event is the latest sign of increasing dialogue, public appearances, and quiet cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Last June, officials from Israel and Saudi Arabia revealed that representatives from their countries had been engaging in secret meetings since 2014 to discuss Iran’s threat to the region. At an event that month at the Council on Foreign Relations, Saudi general Anwar Eshki and current Director-General of the Israeli foreign ministry, Dore Gold, discussed their shared concern about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its regional aggression. In May 2014, al-Faisal met with Israel’s former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.Prior to Egypt’s decision to return two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, Israel gave its approval for the transfer. Furthermore, Riyadh vowed to honor the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which guarantees Israel full maritime passage rights in the Red Sea and through the Straits of Tiran. Former Israeli deputy national security advisor Eran Lerman and Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on Saudi Arabia, argued that “the very fact that Saudi Arabia now undertakes to uphold in practice the obligations assumed by Egypt under the peace treaty means that Israel’s place in the region is no longer perceived by Arab leader Saudi Arabia as an anomaly to be corrected.”


Hamas fired mortars at Israeli troops seeking to uncover terror tunnels built by the Iran-backed terrorist group for the fourth consecutive day on Friday. Israel launched air raids against Hamas positions inside the Gaza Strip in response to the attacks.IDF troops have been operating near the border with Gaza and inside the enclave to find terror tunnels that extend into Israel. No Israeli troops have been injured in the mortar attacks, although a number of engineering vehicles have been damaged.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared on Friday that the terror group would not accept Israeli incursions into Gaza “on the pretext of searching for tunnels.”

Israeli authorities arrested and subsequently interrogated Hamas’ top tunnel expert last month, and have been working to discover and destroy the organization’s subterranean network. The IDF located one tunnel last month and a second earlier this week.

“The repeated attacks against the IDF activities to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels will not be tolerated,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, the military’s spokesman, in a statement. “Hamas’s diabolical plan to infiltrate into Israeli communities must be stopped. The IDF has the obligation and a duty to safeguard the people in southern Israel and the sovereignty of our borders, we will continue to do so.”

Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly the head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence and later the director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters on Thursday that Hamas’ “ongoing effort to be better prepared to launch a new attack and to fight again against Israel in the time that is considered to be right from their point of view….they definitely invest a lot in making the necessary preparations so that in the next round, when they decide to start it, they will be able to inflict the heaviest damage on Israel, including through those tunnels.” (via TheTower.org)

If investing in hope could be trademarked, two Israeli entrepreneurs – Forsan Hussein and Ami Dror – would hold the patent. The two cofounders and managing partners of Zaitoun Ventures– a hybrid investment firm that invests in companies with diverse human capital – say their strategy is proving to be a winning formula. “We wanted to create a business that inspires hope but also fulfills its mission to make money. It’s an investment company with values, with a soul,” Hussein says. In 2014, Dror and Hussein, who knew each other for years, decided to join forces and create Zaitoun Ventures. They have raised $5 million and invested some $17 million in Israeli startups so far. The name of the company translates from Hebrew and Arabic as “olive tree.” “The olive tree is a symbol. It’s a story of peace. We Arabs and Jews have a Mediterranean connectedness. There’s something that bonds us. Maybe this is the symbol for the future,” says Hussein. Their focus on diversity — in terms of faith, ethnicities, lifestyle – is unique. “Corporate studies show that diversity is beneficial to a company,” says Hussein. “We believe innovation comes from diversity. The more diverse your company is, the more powerful it is,” says Dror. Zaitoun requires all portfolio companies to implement its “30in3” rule. That is, within three years of investment, the companies must strive to reach 30 percent diversification in human capital. Dror and Hussein say their outline to include everyone is already rubbing off on others in the high-tech arena. They excitedly discuss how a CEO of a big Israeli company was so impressed with their idea that he actively set out to hire Arab engineers. (via Israel21c)

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