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Moshe Arens: 'Upcoming Regional Conference Is Big Gamble For Israel - Prime Minister Olmert & Foreign Minister Livni Must Clarify That Israel Will Not Return To 1967 Lines Or Accept Palestinian Refugees'

'Big U.S. Arms Deal With Arab States Will Have No Effect On Iran's Drive For Nuclear Weapons'

'Chances Are Minimal That Palestinian Leader Abbas Will Succeed In Judea & Samaria After Losing Gaza'

Former Defense Minister Prof. Moshe Arens

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has toured the Middle East meeting with Arab and Israeli leaders in the run-up to the regional conference this fall. All signs are go that most Arab states, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are firmly behind the current American initiative to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The latest flurry of diplomatic activity comes against the background of U.S. efforts to block Iran's drive for nuclear weapons which also worries the Sunni Arab regimes as well as a future American exit strategy from Iraq. However Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense and foreign minister told IsraCast that the regional conference and the big U.S. arms sales to the Arab states are a big gamble for Israel and could pose some new threats.

Moshe Arens, retired after a long and distinguished career in the Likud party, warned that the current U.S. strategy posed dangers for Israel. In his words, the big American arms sales to the Arab states and the regional conference are a 'big gamble'. Past experience has shown there is a considerable probability those weapons will end up threatening Israel in the future. But does Israel have any choice but to co-operate with the American initiative if it is designed as part of strategy to block Iran's drive for nuclear weapons and to promote a U.S. exit policy from Iraq ? Arens replies that there should be no illusions that arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states will deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The former defense minister says: 'There is no connection'. The Saudis and other Arab leaders would welcome any American attempt to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program they didn't require any incentives. Arens went on to say the prospects of the American approach are very small for Israel while the dangers are very great.

As for the regional conference, Arens faulted Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni for not making crystal clear that Israel will not agree to withdraw to the old 1967 lines or accept the return of Palestinian refugees. He warned that the failure to do so now before the conference would only hurt Israel in the future. Arens was no less optimistic about current efforts to shore up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after his Fatah party was driven out of Gaza by the radical Islamists of Hamas, who call openly for Israel's destruction. Arens said betting on Abbas was like betting on a losing horse after Abbas had lost Gaza. Nor was there any prospect that Palestinians on the West Bank would now realize that terrorism against Israel did not pay. In the former defense minister's view, the Palestinians have conducted a campaign of violence and suicide bombers for decades and there was little chance they would change.

But supporters of the regional conference argue that the Arab position about returning to the 1967 lines and the refugees may only be 'opening positions'. Arens did not agree, in his view more often than not, the Arabs' opening position is always their closing position.



David Essing

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