Former Israeli Ambassador speaks at UNF

Saphara Harrell

The Spinnaker interviewed Ambassador Gideon Meir who was involved in the Camp David agreements of 1978 that formed an alliance between Israel and Egypt after years of conflict.

He spoke at the Student Union Auditorium Nov. 14 about serving 45 years as a member of the foreign ministry.

Saphara Harrell: How did you become a diplomat?

Gideon Meir: When I was a young man I worked at my grandfather’s bookstore… eventually my father told me if you want to live a serious life you have to do something significant, so he got me into the foreign ministry.

SH: What is something no one knows about you?

GM: I have the soul of a child. I love to play with my grandchildren. I have an electric train, and we play with the electric train a lot. I originally bought it for myself and it stayed in the packaging, but now my grandchildren and I take it out every weekend.

SH: Where do you live full time?

GM: I live in the outskirts of Jerusalem, near Tel Aviv with my whole family. My wife, kids and grandkids all live there. My daughter is the only one who lives in Washington, D.C.

SH: So you would say you promote the country?

GM: Of course. I am the biggest promoter of the country abroad. I’m representing the sovereign of the country, which is the president of the state of Israel. You are the face and the voice of the country where you serve.

SH: Do you feel that Americans are unaware or lacking interest in the problems going on in the Middle East?

GM: I think Americans know more than others. I think there’s more awareness of what Israel is all about. In America you have a very big Jewish community, over 6 million Jews live in this country, that’s a small percentage but they live in major cities.

The American media is reporting more on Israel than the media in Europe for example. Europeans know about Israel only from the conflict because they are reporting only on the conflict but they don’t know the context. In America they know the context; they know Israel is a startup nation.

America knows what Israel contributes to the world because two of your biggest companies, Microsoft and Intel, have plants in Israel. So there is a different way to transfer this information so Americans know more. I’m very happy to say the debate in America is beyond the conflict.

SH: How do you feel about the way the United States has handled the nuclear weapons in Iran and how do you think this can be resolved?

GM: I can talk only about the Israeli position. Don’t take the Iranian smiles as a change of policy. These smiles are because they have problems.

I wouldn’t stop the sanctions, because it was very difficult to impose those sanctions. We have to be very careful because Iran is a major threat to world stability, not only to Israel. They have range missiles which range 1,500 km, 2,500 km and 3,500 km. For Israel, 1,500 km is enough, so why do they need more? Because Israel is not the only target. Iran is a major perpetrator of terrorism around the world.

The revolutionary guards who are actually ruling in Iran are not willing to give up nuclear weapons, so for us Israelis it’s crucial. We have been there. We know what the future of the Jewish people could’ve been if not for the second World War. We don’t want to be there again. Therefore our prime minister is doing his best to defend the Israeli people. And we will do what is good for the people of Israel, to protect them.

We don’t believe the Iranians.

SH: What do you think is the biggest problem facing the Middle East?

GM: There are many problems facing the Middle East. Iran is the biggest one—there’s no doubt about it. Iran is a threat to world stability. If Iranians really wanted to have nuclear weapons for peace purposes, they would’ve given up on their enrichment program because they don’t need an enrichment program for uranium for peace purposes.

SH: You said earlier that there were Iranians and Syrians on the board of UN, do you think this influences how the conflict is being resolved?

GM: Iran has a very dangerous access to the world. They have a very dangerous access to us. But for the sake of argument, tomorrow if there were no state of Israel, do you think the Iranians would give up their nuclear weapons? That Syria would give up?

Europe is next. We are the buffer between the Middle East and Europe. There are many conflicts around that world that have nothing to do with Israel.

And if—God forbid—there’s no Israel, the world would not be quieter. On the contrary, we are the peace keepers of the Western World.

SH: A young Israeli soldier was recently killed by Palestinians, and Israelis are mourning his death. This comes after the release of many Palestinian prisoners. What does this say about the current state of relations with Palestine?

GM: See it’s always Palestinians who come to kill Israelis and not the other way around.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of incitement in the Palestinian authority which is not being stopped by the Palestinian regime. This is not helpful when you come to talk peace. If they really wanted peace, they need to come to the negotiating table. They could’ve done peace [talks] so many times before.

SH: Do you think negotiations were easier before everything was in the light of the media?

GM: If you’re out of the light it’s easier to negotiate in any given issue, it doesn’t have to be just peace. If you negotiate quietly and you reach a compromise, then you bring the compromise back to your people.

It’s not by mere accident that the American senator decided that the spokesperson for the Palestinian Israeli negotiations would only be America, not the two sides [of the conflict], in order to keep things as quiet and secret as possible.