- Nuclear weapons in Iran are a real threat to the stability of the Middle East and Israel.
- The new administration must not try and appease Iran as long as the Iranian regime is a combination of traditional imperialism and radical Islam.
- Arab states have concluded that their national interest is more important than their ideology.
According to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, “The new normalization agreements between Israel and the Arab states have opened a window of opportunity for a new Middle East. Arab countries understood that they could not survive in constant tension with parts of the West and with Israel, so they decided that they had to take care of themselves.”
Kissinger made the remarks at the farewell event for Avinoam Bar-Yosef, the outgoing President and Founding Director of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI). The occasion, which took place on Zoom, was led by the institute’s co-chairs, Ambassadors Stuart Eizenstat and Dennis Ross, and was attended by heads of Jewish organizations around the world, lay leaders, and senior policy professionals.
During the event, Dennis Ross, a special senior adviser to Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, conducted a live interview with the former Secretary of State.
Asked by Ross if the approach of maintaining relations with the Iranians was still logical and relevant, Kissinger answered, “In principle I could imagine negotiating with the current regime if it changes its attitudes, but they don’t seem to find it possible to give up this combination of Islamist imperialism and threat…and so, the test case is the evolution of nuclear capacities in Iran, if these can be avoided…I do not say we shouldn’t talk to them…”
According to Kissinger, “We should not fool ourselves. I don’t believe that the spirit (of the JCPOA), with a time limit and so many escape clauses, will do anything other than bring nuclear weapons all over the Middle East and therefore create a situation of latent tension that sooner or later will break out…”
In response to Ross’ question: “If you were now Secretary of State again, how would you try to take advantage of the process of normalization between Israel and Arab policy, and what would you advise incoming President Biden and his administration to do?” Kissinger replied, “The Arab states have learned or have come to the conclusion that their national interests transcend their ideological interests. Their survival as societies cannot be maintained in a state of constant tensions with the West and with Israel. So, they have decided, and Israel has advocated, that they should pursue their interests and come together, and they will take into account Arab concerns where they clash and even make an effort to meet some of these concerns as long as they stay in the framework of compatible and mutually supportive efforts. It has worked out very well and therefore I have always advocated to stay away from all-out solutions and to work out the solutions that we can because they can build on themselves.
Kissinger believes the same is true of the Palestinian issue. Referring to the Palestinians, he said that they should act like the Arab states, abandon the “ultimate aims,” and choose the possible achievements. “We should not give up on what has recently been achieved in these agreements between the Arab world and the Israeli world. I would tell the incoming administration that we are on a good course.”
Avinoam Bar-Yosef, outgoing President and Founding Director of the Jewish People Policy Institute has completed his tenure after 18 years. The Institute formulates action-oriented policy recommendations for the Government of Israel and for major Jewish organizations worldwide.
JPPI deals with numerous issues including those pertaining to the impact of geo-political developments on the Jewish people, Jewish identity and identification, the balance between religion and state in Israel, the fight against anti-Semitism, demographic trends, and opportunities for immigration to Israel. The institute publishes an Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People, which is presented to the Israeli cabinet and major Jewish organizations around the world and includes strategic analyses and recommended responses to the challenges, threats, and opportunities facing the Jewish people globally.
The institute’s co-chairman Stuart Eizenstat, former US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and US Ambassador to the EU, said, “Avinoam has recruited and guided a world-class group of policy planning experts who span the religious and ideological spectrums. In addition to preparing the Annual Assessments JPPI conducts annual dialogues with Jewish leaders around the world on issues of common interest to Israel and the Diaspora, examines critical issues such as religion and Jewish identity, the phenomenon of de-legitimization, and the relations of Israel and the Jewish people with developing powers such as China and India. As a colleague and friend, his leadership will be missed, although I am convinced that he will continue to be involved and committed to the Institute’s activities.”
Bar-Yosef’s successor, Prof. Yedidia Stern, holds a doctorate in law from Harvard University, is a professor in the Faculty of Law at Bar Ilan University and was a long-time Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.
Photo: President Trump Meets with Henry Kissinger / photo credit: The White House