Author: ANNA AHRONHEIM
Posted on February 19, 2017
The top three challenges facing the region are “Iran, Iran, Iran,” and a two-state solution is the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Sunday.
Liberman, speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference, called for working with Sunni Arab states in order to defeat radicalism in the region. He asked those states to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that two states with population exchanges was the only solution.
“My vision and goal is, without a doubt, the two-state solution,” he said. “I believe that we must ensure Israel remains a Jewish state. The basic solution must include a land swap, and a population swap. There are a lot of misunderstandings.”
The defense minister said “it made no sense” to have one homogeneous Palestinian state and a binational State of Israel. “The biggest problem is that we are willing for them to have a Palestinian state without a single Jew in it, but in Israel, 20% of our population will be Arabs. We cannot create two states this way.
“The Palestinians do not have a capacity to sign a final-status agreement with Israel,” he said. “It is possible only as a part of [an] all region solution. We must sign simultaneously a regional solution with the Arab world and [the] Palestinians.”
Liberman accused Iran of trying to undermine Saudi Arabia and that Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, is “the No. 1 terrorist in the world.”
“If you ask me, ‘What is the biggest news in the Middle East?’ I think that [for] the first time since 1948 the moderate Arab world, Sunni world, understands that the biggest threat for them is not Israel, not Jews and not Zionism, but Iran and Iranian proxies,” Liberman said, pointing to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and the Houthi militia in Yemen.
Israel has not seen more moderate behavior from Iran since it signed the nuclear deal with world powers in July 2015, the defense minister said. To the contrary, he stated, Israel has seen a competition organized in Tehran for the best Holocaust denial cartoon, with a prize of $50,000; parades in Tehran featuring ballistic missiles with Hebrew inscriptions reading “Israel must be wiped out”; a State Department report finding that Iran is the No. 1 state sponsor of terror in the world; Iranian development of ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231; the persecution of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities; and 600 executions in 2016, often with little or no due process.
The defense minister said the Iran nuclear deal was “an attempt to avoid reality,” and was a “copy paste” of the nuclear agreements with North Korea and has yielded similar results.
He called for world powers to enforce a tough policy of economic pressure and follow through on UN resolutions, such as in the case of Iran carrying out ballistic missile tests.
The Iranians aim to “undermine stability in every country in the Middle East… their main destination at the end of the day is Saudi Arabia,” Liberman said, adding that Bahrain was also in Tehran’s crosshairs and telling moderator Lyse Doucet that he was looking forward to hearing comments from Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir who spoke after him.
Jubeir also accused Tehran of being a destabilizing force in the region.
“Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world” and is “determined to upend the order in Middle East…, [and] until and unless Iran changes its behavior, it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this,” he said.
Jubeir said Iran was propping up the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and funding the Houthi separatists in Yemen and violent groups across the region. The international community needs to set clear “red-lines” to halt Iran’s actions, with “consequences” if it crosses them, he said.
“I believe that Iran knows where the red-lines are, if the red-lines are drawn clearly, and I believe that the world has to make it clear to the Iranians that there is certain behavior that will not be tolerated, and that there will be consequences,” Jubeir said. “And those consequences have to be in tune with the financial side.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who spoke ahead of Liberman, said his country would never seek to build a nuclear weapon, apparently accusing Israel of being the true nuclear-armed actor endangering the region.
“We will never produce nuclear weapons, period,” Zarif said, adding that Iran had committed to this in the nuclear deal signed with world powers, but that the other side has yet to fulfill its obligations under the agreement. “The international community still owes us,” he said.
Zarif said that under so-called “crippling sanctions” intended to curb the Islamic Republic’s construction of centrifuges for enriching uranium, it had gone from 200 centrifuges to some 20,000.
“We don’t respond to threats, we respond to mutual respect,” Zarif said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.