Israel’s ambassador to U.S. discusses resolution to violence

Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor said citizens of his country are ready to “make the sacrifice” and accept a two-state solution to the Arab-Israel conflict in a speech to about 100 faculty and students at 1957 E Street Friday.

“We are ready to give up terror for peace, to give up hate for hope,” he said.

The speech, “From Tehran to Beirut and Gaza: The Middle East at a Crossroad,” was the fifth and final installment of the Middle East Policy Forum.

In March, former President Jimmy Carter came to GW as the third speaker in this series to talk about his new book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” which has drawn criticism around the globe.

“I am pleased that this is a campus that can host Jimmy Carter and (Meridor) back to back,” said University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in his opening remarks at the conference.

On Friday, Meridor discussed a willingness on the part of the Israelis to cooperate with the Palestinians.

“We are trying to work with moderates and bring change to Palestinian society,” he said.

He spoke of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 as evidence of their efforts. He said it is now up to the Palestinians to decide whether to move toward peace or away from it. Since the Israelis have disengaged from the Gaza Strip, Palestinians have continued to launch attacks against Israel.

“We are trying to work with moderates and bring change to Palestinian society,” he said.

Meridor was critical of the election of a Hamas-led government in January 2006, calling it the selection of a terrorist organization that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“We thought there was a movement toward the center, but Palestine moved back,” he said.

He said the conflict is not just between Israelis and Palestinians, but involves a wider network of terrorist organizations. He said Iran contributes to the violence between Israel and its Arab neighbors as it backs the Islamist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas. But he said the Iranian threat is not insurmountable.

“Iran is blocking efforts toward peace in the region,” Meridor said. “I think (Iran) can be stopped.”

In November, Meridor was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the United States. He is Israel’s first ambassador to come from a West Bank settlement. Meridor previously served as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization.

Meridor has also worked as Minster of Defense and Minster of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel. In 1991, he participated in the negotiations at the Madrid Peace Conference, a mostly symbolic start of a peace process between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Representatives from student groups that advocate for Israel were present at the speech.

“This has been the highlight of the pro-Israel programming this year,” said junior Steven Miller, president of the Student Alliance for Israel. “We are very fortunate to have faculty that will look at every side of the Arab-Israel conflict.”

Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm, a Gulf and Arabian Peninsula affairs professor and former Kuwaiti diplomat, directs the Middle East Policy Forum.

“The Middle East Policy Forum aims to focus on key issues that U.S. policy-makers must face in this region,” Gnehm said. “His perspectives on key issues in the Middle East provide valuable insight for our students and faculty.”

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