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Thank you all for coming. And I would like to also welcome those who are listening in live on Aspen public radio. Thanks for joining us. We are extremely fortunate to have with us today, Ambassador Sallai Meridor Israel's representative in the United States. When I first arrived in Jerusalem a few years ago, I was then working for the New York times, after a couple of months on the job, I went to see the ambassador's brother Dan Meridor who is involved at the time in a little political dust up and before I even had the chance to ask so many questions, he started interviewing me about how I did my job. It was then the height of the Intifada and I was rising, kind of from suicide bombing to suicide bombing from missile strike in Gaza to incursion in the West Bank and I described this to him and he was totally apalled and he explained to me that I was blowing it, that I wasn't doing my job properly. That if I was going to ever convey to our readers, the richness of life in Israel, I needed to study it. I needed to be going to concerts, I needed to be talking to artists and writers and others. And of course he was absolutely right. And I think he was also demonstrating what has been a Meridor family in preoccupation since the earliest days of the state with nurturing and protecting that which really makes Israel unique among nations. It's certainly been the ambassador's preoccupation. He did his schooling in Jerusalem; he did his service in the Israel defense forces as in intelligence officer. He has served as advisors to both foreign ministers and defense ministers and for six years he led the Jewish agency promoting it's mission of encouraging Jewish emigration to Israel and building ties to the Jewish communities around the world. Last year he was appointed ambassador of Washington by the current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. There is a lot of ground and the whole thing we will cover today, these are turbulent times in the regions and tough times for the state of Israel, I think it's fair to say even by Israeli standards for tough times. The president just step down after being accused of rape, the prime minister's approved ratings are below those even of our own president, the Palestinian national movement is disintegrating in a way that seems unlikely to benefit Israel on a long term. The credible reports that arms are once again flowing freely across the Syrian border to Hezbollah, they also continue to flow under tunnels into Gaza from Egypt and Iran and Israeli intelligence, and the American intelligence agrees hard at work out producing a nuclear bomb. Have I left anything else? These are all matters I hope to touch on. We are going to talk for about a half hour and then I will open it up to questions from you. Mr. Ambassador I would like it if we could begin by talking about the problem with state terror verses non state terror. The United States is grappling with this problem in it's own way. Israel experiences it much more directly in the region as more experienced coping with it. I wonder which keeps you up at night more and where you think it's got to They are not totally separated, and we have in the Middle East today terror fronts in different theaters played by non state actors, there are large degree with major support guiding by Iran which is state sponsoring. Terror sponsoring state. So you have the combination of the two. We have it obviously you see the fingers of this octopus. We are now in Afghanistan, obviously in Iraq, we watch we have concern which you - I think did not mention. A military build up by the Syrians supported by Iran that we have not seen since 73. We see rearming of Hezbollah in Lebanon, again supported by Iran. And obviously Hamas especially in Gaza which could not have gotten to the point where they are without the training, guidance funding by Iran. So we are talking about a very troubling situation I think not only to Israel not only regionally, I would say even globally and when you look at only three weeks of major terror events if you want Yemen, in yesterday London and Glasgow just five days ago the Mosque in Samarah the UN forcing Lebanon one or two weeks ago Hamas take over of Gaza. They are all separate but they are all influenced I think largely by major trends in this area, these are as threatening on our lives and their life and against that you have to develop a strategy, first of all you have to realize what you are standing against and then know that we have provided for the world quick fixes and the right victories this is not about that this time. This you can overcome as I hope we have done over the last in to further that you have mention before only with realizing that there are no quick fixes and it takes a lot of patience and perseverance that its about the standing power and will of the people that it's almost impossible to win such battles if you you are not united internally and read it is which I think we have more and more today not out of choice but out of no other choice of continuing to live with the threats because we can confront it, we can curtail it we can somewhat contain, it we cannot eliminate it altogether. And is it your feeling that the Iraq war and the American involvement in that region has made Israel safer or less safe hasn't it enhance to believe the cope with those problems is that have degraded it? That's a tough one. Look I couldn't was now from now and till the end of our lunch on the one hand and on the other hand and and do a historic review what were the upsides and what were the potential downsides I think that responsible thinking should be a forward thinking and the question is lots could be their infocation of certain outcomes of the Iraqi situation on the region and on the world and I think it is clear that Iraq today is a theatre in which two major forces Iran and the Qaeda are extremely active in and the question is what would happen to them and to their ability to hurt the Israel the region in the world based on a specific outcome of what might happen in Iraq. So Israel is an ally with the United States as I am sure all of us know and not a conditional ally - unconditional ally, we would be with America which ever way America chooses but I will not be a friend with you if I didn't tell you that we are watching with concern different developments because an outcome which makes Iran more secured and confident in there race for a nuclear military capacity make Hezbollah and Hamas feel stronger may an outcome that may destabilize after we are stressing to destabilize a country like Jordan or all avoid some to regional. So we are watching with concern we are helping as much as we can and will be with America which ever decision America takes. How do you evaluate the system? I wanted to thank you for the for the [0:09:47] ____ a diplomat to address like a normal human being but with the question on Iraq, I had to go back to still become some of the diplomats will forgive me. Fair enough. I have to say, was in a while living in the State of Israel that I utterly lot the habit of wearing a tie. I am not sure if I can ever go back. I would like to hear your evaluation of the situation now in the Palestine territories and in the sense one could frame the question as What exactly is Tony Blair going to do all day? I mean, who who is the actor the credible actor on that side now that Israel can can deal with ? Is it is it even meaningful to talk about a peace process right now? The critical partner or element on the Palestinian themselves none of us, no matter if its Israel or the United States or even other countries, Tony Blair or whoever can replace them in doing the right things and making making tough choices. What we have seen in in the Palestinian authority was a very negative development. We have seen a take over by Hamas over whole over whole area. And this is again should be looked upon and understood in the context of the trends I was trying to mention that are that are regional. And the question is "what do you do with it?" So, we had three options. One is to do nothing, which is for Israel it's not an option. Two, accept it and try to make a deal with the Hamas which we think would be probably a a short tactical gain with a major strategic lose. Hamas could be interested in temporary quite in order on rebuild themselves, take over the entire Palestinian society, create a situation that there is not chance for peace not in my life time may be not in my daughter's life time. Or the third option which was to try to look at this as an opportunity based on the fact that for the moment it seems that this served as wake-up call for the more moderates and not the Palestinians. President Abbas made some very important statements and and took some very important steps from dissolving the Hamas let Government to creating a Terror Free Government to calling for the disarming of own relations. To calling in with his Prime Minster or the this Prime Minster did that all the preaches in the mosque to warn them against the incitement. So there is an opportunity here that we are trying to aggressively with all our hearts and work with to try and see if we can help while risked we are taking risks for them to really move forward first internally and then towards compromise and peace with Israel. This goes back to your question about Tony Blair. Tony Blair is going to deal with which I think is the most important element that is missing now. There isn't Law and Order there isn't the government that the people is trusting, services are not being provided and it's not only about me thinking this just been public opinion survey that was done by Palestinians in the entire Palestinian Society in the territories. And 56 percent of Palestinians were suggesting that the number one threat to the Palestinian Society is lack of Law and Order and you know fighting. 21 percent said poverty, and only 12 percent Israeli Israeli occupation. Now this does not mean that we do not want to bring about as soon as possible the an agreement. We want to bring it about to State agreement as soon as possible. But it can only be built if the Palestinian Society feels that their government can provide them with a basic need of every individual. So we are going to do everything we can to help them. We are going to try to all the time make sure that Palestinians understand that we wants to reach compromise and peace with them. Keep the horizon bright, move as fast as possible to seating with them and dealing with this compromise. But as I said in the beginning, Blair can and should help America helps Israel would do much - much - much to help at the end of the day, it is their choice to make and their action to take. Do you see any signs of a a pragmatic strain within Hamas. Is Israel's position that the US should have no contact what so ever with the organization that arguing was advanced actually here last night that Hamas will some ways is is grappling, will have to grapple with the responsibilities of power that they will effectively moderate them over time and that America has to live with the consequences of its own push pull democracy in a region at least except of non brace those who win elections. That I heard the presentation yesterday I am not objective on seeing it with the Israeli lancers. I think that's where we would you talk to Hamas it would be a definite to moderate the Palestine camp and the chances repeats. Oh it's not and the same is true for the united states and may be beyond Israel and Palestine -- this is the first time a Muslim brotherhood group gain control over a given territory, there are brothers throughout the region they are all watching all this for develop. Now, so talking to them its not restrict, it is all is also very, very high risks at the same time we never close the door you know this argument that they were not given the opportunity, they were given the opportunity, they were allowed to go to elections, by the way, I am not sure that this was the right thing to do I don't think that a terror and democracy go together and we have seen regimes that are totally anti-democratic using democratic tools in order to gain power you can only look at the 20th century but they have been given the opportunity and then nobody said, we will never talk to you. Israel said we are not going to intervene in internal Palestine affairs. We would talk to what ever government that accept three basic principles, that you recognize your neighbor, that you don't want to destroy it because if not whether you are going to discuss with them our destruction that you we now stare and that you have abide by previous agreements that your are all people signed. We do not close the door on them, they close the door because they decided that they don't want to change so the stock that they may have changed could have changed over time it's a guess work. They want the elections they were given the opportunity, they decided not to choose the opportunity they took the opposite approach to use Gaza as a terror based barrage want to concentrate when the constant dates the early civilian population with rockets and to suggest that only were a given a chance. For me is not connected to the reality that I can see with my probably not on a percent of conjunctive eyes. I would like to ask you a little bit also about the Israeli national movement if I can put it that way because I don't think some of the changes By the way Hamas is not a national movement which is a major distinction, Hamas is a religious extremists, that religious movement -- the threat of Hamas is turning a national disputes into an insolvable religious conflict and that's the deep threat of engaging Hamas Fair enough, but there is a distinction to be drawn between what Hamas has always asked for, demanded and what we are now seeing this new strain in the camps of Lebanon. Palestinian groups that are more closely allied with an Al-Qaeda style search for a global caliper I mean that's in that's a new threat now on Israel's boarders. Are you seeing the sign of Hamas rising any sign of Hamas is linking up with those groups possibly with Al Qaeda and so ? Not yet - not yet, Hamas is a very connected that itself afford to you to run to there very connected to Hisbala and to the various of direct connection with groups of Al-Qaeda by the way what you see in Lebanon is largely imported its to a logic stand what you see in them in this camp in the north or largely it's not mostly north Palestinians and north Lebanese but people who came in from other countries middle eastern countries. Yes there is you started there are multiple threats and I assume that as given the fact that they share a lot of their objectives, there could be co-operation at some point. I don't think that we have seen it so far. I would like to ask you but this is rather profound transformation on the Israeli side because I don't think its really well understood here and because you have gone through it yourself when you grow up in a movement that was really devoted to an Israel from the Jordan to the sea and I believe you are the first ambassador actually lived in west bank settlement yourself for - and yet you have gone through the transformation to the point where we all say the land was in fact be divided. How has that changed your own sense of designer's mission in the world? It was so bound up with the territorial ambition for so long. How would how can you talk a little bit about how you went through that change yourself and how it changed your own view if it has a visuals mission in the world. First of all Israel has made a decision in which and not only diplomatically but personally fully support that for the future of Israel and for the future duration we need to compromise with the Palestinians and the separate in the land that we believe is ours and they believe is theirs for the future ritual. It is easy for me to say it is very difficult emotionally so it wouldn't be like just to behavior there if I was speaking about something that is a conflict between Iceland and somewhere else. We are talking about the land that has been promised to us in the bible the core the heritage of the Jewish people we know it well hesitate the approval I think of tens of thousands of the best of Israel. We know it will remain a change of Israel's if you want national narrative. When you open the bible you read about the various places some of which we have to tell our children we have given out for ever not tactically not Hamas like but giving up for ever for peace. But we made this decision and the decision is in my view in the very basic Afghanistan text, if you know it's this festival is about big it deals. Show me a bigger idea then then design is ideal. When convened just 110 years ago in summer in Basil representatives of the Jewish people and had the nerve guts with everyone to call it to say then in 1897 in Basil they established the Jewish state and said it may take more than five years but its going to make take more than 50 years and 50 years after in 47 UN there after the resolution in November 29th of the creation of state of Israel so that was the big idea, but if you go through the text of the mission of the Zionist movement as articulated in 1897. It said that it had three elements to create a Jewish dormant in the land of Israel or in the land of Palestine which ever way you want to call it accepted by international legitimacy. So there were three elements that want that it should be a Jewish state, a state for the Jewish people. Second, it didn't say in the in it land of Israel, it said, in the land of Israel and it had to confirm with basic universal norms first of which is democracy and equity of human beings. And there is no Zionism with out equality between Jews and Arabs who live within the state of Israel. So in order to and that is no Israel, that is not Jewish and democratic in our basic laws of Israel and that we don't have too many. Have a long way to go to a full constitution. Israel is mentioned as a Jewish Democratic State; this goes together. If we had 30 million Jews today living in Israel, we may have had a different perspective, we need to make sure that we may take Israel forever as a Jewish and Democratic State with a lot of Jewish majority living in peace with its neighbors. And for that, we needed to if you want to adjust our policy to the original narrative of Zionism which always took into account that what we really need is a place in the land of Israel for the Jews to exercise sovereignty with democracy. I am going to open it up to you guys in a moment, I think that there are two microphones people want to start moving towards and I am probably going to ask two more questions. The first of which I I simply can't resist in light of what I have what I have, like said that was a very explanation of the last question. What's that settlement enterprise a mistake? I don't think so. But future would tell and I think we should not be hasty in making historical judgments on on events. There was a lot of talk about the less for 11 or for example. And when people were making judgment two days after the war, and I was thinking to myself that there has not been a war that Israel fought from '48 through this last four that we look at today, the way we looked at the day after the war. If for example, settlement movement which was a a natural, some what emotional reaction of the Greek connection of the Jews to the historic land of Israel. If by the sacrifice and the pain of of our best, we will make it easier for the Palestinians to compromise compromise that will be very difficult for them as well. I tell you, that it was not in vane if at the end settlements will not stay and we won't have peace, we won't have comprise, I tell you; it was in vane. So, we need to have little patience before we pass judgment on things with historic dimensions. Are you arguing then that this elements may actually have have encouraged on more compromising attitude on the part of on the part of the Palestinians? Two significant degrees are it did two things, it created some level of frustration. But at the same time, it's a it's probably created a momentum that the time is of essence and that there is a need to reach a compromise. And you cannot just wait forever and assume Israel will disappear. And again the question is "what would be if you want the end game? And in the end game, the Palestinians will have to make their own compromises. So far, they have not done that. And I think we should realize and be sensitive to the fact that they will have to change their narrative which will be as difficult for them as its going to be for us. They will have to tell their people that they are going to accomplish their dream only in part of the land and not in all the land. They will have to tell their people that just as the Jewish people would not be able to come back to the Italian - Israel. Did I say something wrong? We don't be able to come back. Mine is closed; or supposed to be closed. Okay. So so, as much as Jews the Jewish people will not be able to come back to those parts of the land of Israel that would be a Central Israel, even though they are in the heart of the land of Israel. Palestinians will be able to settle in the parts of Palestine that will be the State of Palestine but not in the parts of the Central Israel. It would be a very difficult compromise for both sides. And and I think that we will see how these plays out and only then I will be able to tell you in that respect how I feel and think about it. So if that happens in our life too to. We say it and then you hope so.