Wednesday, August 25, 2004

More Yoav Biran (Foreign Office guy
Jonathan has been kind enough to let me know that Yoav Biran, director general of the Israeli Foreign Office, was interviewed by Haaretz as well. He doesn’t say exactly the same things, but some are similar. Any way, the point is that you can read for yourselves.

He fully accepts the assessment that Israel currently has no partner on the Palestinian side to negotiate with and is satisfied with growing realization around the world that is the reason for the freeze. "Recently, I haven't heard from any serious source, in quiet diplomatic conversations, any genuine thinking that Yasser Arafat is good and beneficial. Without much exaggeration, the whole world agrees he is an obstacle and if there is any argument, it is only on how to minimize the damage he causes." Biran thinks that the war in Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein were positive developments in the region.

Biran does not despair over the chances of improving Israel's standing. Despite the harsh criticism directed at Israel, he feels the country's position is still strong. It is valued as an important diplomatic player and its close ties with the United States are respected. He supports the initiative of Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to strengthen ties with Europe and also feels that in the Arab world all is not lost. In his many conversations with Arab figures, Biran says, he has learned that since the 1991 Gulf War, most moderate countries do not see Israel as an enemy or a threat.