Saturday, August 21, 2004

Pan-Arabism 2004
Yoav Biran, Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, is retiring soon. He was interviewed by Yediot Aharonot this weekend and had a few surprising things to say. He pointed out that many in the international community, including Arab countries, expect Israel to do the dirty work with regard to the Iranian nuclear threat.

He also told of his many meetings with Arab leaders over the years, leaders of countries not necessarily openly friendly to Israel. Itamar Eichner elaborates (my translation):

In his meetings with Arab leaders Biran heard interesting things, different and opposite to what the same dignitaries say about Israel in the media. “There are Arab leaders who attack us in the media, but in closed conversations confess that they admire Israel. If you want to be a Zionist, all you have to do is visit an Arab country and hear what its leaders think about us: about the Israeli capability, about the technological development, financial and military, about our standing in the world and especially about our special relationship with the United States. Israel is known in the Arab world as a country that, when faced with a real problem, finds a real solution. Again and again, they bring up the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor”.

Biran reveals that in conversations he held with Arab leaders he heard hair-raising attacks on Arafat: ”The Israeli public expressions of animosity towards Arafat do not come near to the level of animosity and hatred you hear in private from Arab figures. You hear names like liar, swindler, and even expressions of street-profanity and curses. It even embarrassed me as an Israeli. An Arab leader of a country with which Israel does not have relations, told me that if he was in one room with the prime minister of Israel and with Arafat, and he had a pistol with one bullet in it, the Israeli prime minister would have nothing to be worried about…”

Update: More and a link here.