The chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in the US has urged the pro-Israel lobbying group, AIPAC, to support Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the leadership of the United Arab Emirates.
Stephen Greenberg told the annual conference, under way here in the US capital, on Monday that he visited both countries and was encouraged by the leaders of the UAE for their “tolerance” and “commitment to fight terrorism”.
He also urged the gathering to support Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to change Saudi Arabia.
“Real change must be encouraged,” he said.
In his trademark strident tones, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister for education and diaspora affairs, said: “Israel is strong and stronger than all of its enemies combined.”
Describing Iran as the head of the octopus that needs to be attacked, Bennett, an extreme rightwing member of Israel’s security cabinet, said: “We also must not allow other countries from going nuclear. We should prevent Saudi Arabia from having nuclear power.”
Danny Ayalon, former Israeli deputy foreign minister, who also spoke at the conference, told Al Jazeera that he has “good relations with Saudi leaders” and that Israel has a lot in common with the Arab Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain, especially in countering Iran’s rising power in the region.
“Iran is our common enemy,” he said.
Using his main address, Avi Gabbay, the leader of Israel’s Labour Party, declared that Israel must separate itself from the Palestinians by establishing a demilitarised Palestinian state on parts of the occupied Palestinians territories in the West Bank and Gaza.
Gabbay, who is running for election to be the next prime minster of Israel, said Palestinians must first meet several conditions before Israel should consider agreeing to their demands of having their independent state.
Echoing one of AIPAC’s signature lobbying efforts this year, Gabbay said the Palestinian National Authority must first stop its economic support of families of Palestinian imprisoned and detained by Israel for their activism against the Israeli occupation.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there are more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Gabbay, who said his family emigrated to Israel from their ancestral home in Morocco in 1964, described all of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel as “terrorists”.
Emphasising the separation from the Palestinians as key to Israeli maintenance of its Jewish majority, Gabbay said his parents “left a Muslim-majority country to be part of a Jewish-majority country”.
Avoiding acknowledgement that Palestinians have a right to be free in their independent country, Gabbay kept the focus on Palestinians confined to improving their economic situation, something he said would ultimately help Israel.
“We must have economic cooperation to improve the Palestinian economy to have a secure peace with Israel,” he said.
“We not only are part of the Middle East but we want to lead the Middle East.”
On the issue of the illegal settlements that Israel is building in the occupied territories, Gabbay’s views did not vary from the standard line of the current Likud-led government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gabbay’s only objection on the Israeli settlement project inside the occupied territories was over “hill-top posts” that were built by enterprising Jewish settlers without government sanction.
“We must stop on building on hill tops because they don’t provide any security value to Israel,” he said.
According to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, about 600,000 illegal Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, which Israel siezed from Jordan during the 1967 war.
He also carefully avoided any mention of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories over which Palestinians hope to establish their independent state.
Protesters gather at start of 2018 AIPAC conference
For his part, Ayalon, the former deputy foreign minister, echoed Gabbay sentiments and said the Palestinian leadership was to blame for not reaching a peace agreement with Israel.
He also refused to acknowledge that Israel is occupying Palestinian territories but said Israel would be willing to negotiate if the Palestinian leaders recognise Israel as a “Jewish state” and end all of their claims inside Israel, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which signed the Oslo peace agreements with Israel in 1994, has recognised Israel’s existence over pre-1967 war lines.
Palestinians are demanding the establishment of an independent state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza with Arab East Jerusalem at its capital.
The PLO has renounced claims to the parts of historic Palestine that now make up Israel, but insists on a solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.[Source: Al Jazeera]