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Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S. highlights Arab cooperation, Iran threat

Posted by Tip Staff - February 16, 2017
Roger that, Michael Oren. In a conference call held by The Israel Project on Thursday, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren weighed in on President Donald Trump’s meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking about the possibilities of Israeli cooperation with Arab states and the threat from Iran. Ambassador Oren told journalists, “Saudi Arabia implicitly backed Israel during our recent military engagements both with Hamas and with Hezbollah. And there’s been a visit of a former high ranking Saudi general to Israel.” While the Saudi government has to be discreet about such cooperation because of popular opinion, “as long as we can keep it under the radar and do not demand that they be public about it, we can get a tremendous amount of cooperation from the Saudis and the Gulf states.”

Ambassador Oren highlighted the dangers presented by Iran, which “is complicit in the murder of a half million Syrians” and spreading its influence in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. “This is an Iran which is the world's largest state sponsor of terror…which is systematically violating UN restrictions on missile development.” Many of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that are in the nuclear deal reached between the global powers and Iran in 2015, such as the quantity and quality of centrifuges and enriched uranium, come off after 10 to 15 years, at which point Iran “can make not one nuclear weapon but two hundred nuclear weapons in a very short period.” He emphasized the importance of U.S-Israeli cooperation in the face of this threat.

Out and about. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the threat of a rising Iran during a series of meetings with congressional leadership on Wednesday.

Netanyahu met one-on-one with Congress’ top legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.), and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Though specific reports of these closed-door meetings were mostly not made public, Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying that “the prime minister discussed the issues of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu’s meeting with Ryan had more details publicized. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and I redoubled our commitment to strengthening the historic alliance between the United States and Israel,” Ryan said in a statement. “We discussed the need to hold Iran accountable for its actions, bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge, and push back against international efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. The special relationship between our nations has been an anchor of stability during uncertain and dangerous times. It must remain a cornerstone of American leadership today. I want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his unwavering friendship and support.”

Netanyahu also met with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday morning. The two pledged to “work together in a systematic manner” to combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, a member of Netanyahu’s delegation told the Times of Israel.

Going nuclear. The chief of Hezbollah threatened to attack Israel’s nuclear reactor, located at Dimona in the country’s Negev Desert, in a speech on Thursday. “I call upon the Israelis not only to evacuate the ammonia tank from Haifa, but also to dismantle [the] Dimona nuclear facility,” said Hassan Nasrallah. “The Israeli nuclear weapon that represents a threat to the entire region, we will turn it into a threat to Israel.” On Sunday, an Israeli court ordered Haifa Chemicals to empty an ammonia tank at Haifa’s port – this came a couple of weeks after a report was released by Prof. Ehud Keinan, a chemistry expert at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, which explained that an attack on the ammonia tank would “cause a disaster whose effects could exceed that of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.” (The court’s injunction to empty the tank was later delayed after a petition by Haifa Chemicals). 

Nasrallah continued, “We will hit the tank wherever it is…Of course, Haifa would be easier but we will hit it anywhere.” The Hezbollah leader threatened last February to launch strikes at the tank. “This would be exactly as a nuclear bomb, and we can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect,” Nasrallah said.

The speech Nasrallah gave was on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of the death of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the chief military commander of Hezbollah before being killed. Mughniyeh was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and others on behalf of Iran; he was the mastermind of the 1983 attack on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

The results are in. A staggering 71% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Israel, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday. This represents the fourth straight year that Israel's favorable rating has been 70% or higher. Only about one in four Americans view Israel unfavorably.

Gallup also concluded this month that Americans are “tepid” on Palestinian statehood, with 45% of Americans in support and 42% opposed. Americans' support for an independent Palestinian state is essentially unchanged from last year, but the percentage opposed is up five percentage points – the highest level seen in Gallup's trend.

Sixty-two percent of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israelis compared with 19% who sympathize with the Palestinians, similar to the past several years. Another 19% express no preference, including 5% who say they sympathize with both equally, 6% who sympathize with neither and 8% who have no opinion.


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