Iran and Hamas a threat to Israel and Arab states

 Israel maintains the right to self -defense



The Israeli Ambassador, Ali Yahya, lashes out against the UN Human Rights Council. In his exclusive interview to "Cultural Diplomacy" he states the "Goldstone Report"about the war in Gaza was prejudiced against Israel.
At the same time he expresses his concern about Iran's nuclear program and its ties to terrorist organizations, as proven by the seizure of a ship carrying 3.000 Katyusha rockets destined for Hizbullah, while he speaks about Israel's relations with Greece - Turkey - and the E.U.


Has there been progress in the peace talks following the meeting the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had under the auspices of the President of the United States, Barack Obama at the UN?  What are the prospects for peace a year after the war in Gaza? 

"In terms of Gaza, I think that events there simply demonstrate that the real problem in our area is not about Israel, Arabs, Muslims and Jews. It is the extremism emanating from those who seek to destabilize our region and reject any compromise.  I am referring to extremist organizations and their supporters like the Hamas and Iran, which are not only a threat to Israel, but to moderate Arab states and Islam itself.  Clearly our quest to achieve peace must also be accompanied by an effort to combat and isolate extremists.  We must not let those who seek to destroy peace prevail.      
The meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas at the UN with President Obama was important on a symbolic level. But I am sorry to say that much progress has not been achieved since then.  In spite of the lack of progress, Israel has taken measures to ease the lives of the Palestinians in the West Bank and allow the economy to develop by removing scores of checkpoints.  We have to engage in peace talks.  There is no time to spare. However, peace negotiations cannot take place if the Palestinians keep presenting preconditions for talks to occur. If we are to achieve our common goal of peace involving two states for two nations- with a clear recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people as well a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, we must sit at the negotiating table and resolve our problems." 

You speak about peace but the recent "Goldstone Report" of the UN Human Rights Council accuses Israel and the Hamas of carrying out war crimes during the recent war in Gaza . . .  

"The report is outrageous. Look at the facts.  In 2005 we completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip demolishing all the settlements and uprooting all Israelis living there in an effort to jumpstart the peace process.  What we got in return was 12,000 rockets raining down on innocent Israeli citizens in Southern Israel for 8 years from the Hamas, an organization pent on Israel's destruction. We had no choice but to respond.  Israel carried out an extremely difficult operation against a terrorist group that did not hesitate to use civilians as human shields and launch attacks from homes, mosques and schools. In spite of this, the Israeli Defense Forces did their utmost to avoid civilian casualties, dropping leaflets, instituting a unilateral truce for several hours every day to allow humanitarian supplies to reach the civilian population, even making phone calls to homes in the area to warn civilians there.  Israel went above and beyond what most armies in the world would do to avoid causing civilian casualties, but tragically completely avoiding them is impossible. There is no such thing as a good war.   
Furthermore, Israel thoroughly investigated every single claim of every human rights organization and individuals concerning unlawful or inappropriate behavior on the part of its armed forces in Gaza and if wrongdoing was discovered it was punished.   
Then we have the UN Human Rights Council, a politicized body that does nothing except condemn Israel, a democratic country, while ignoring massive human rights violations elsewhere in places like Darfur where half a million people have lost their lives or the events in Iran.  This poisoned source issued a report over 500 pages long condemning Israel and only two pages referred to the Hamas rocket attacks against innocent Israelis.  The report completely ignored the fact that the Hamas exploited its own civilian population.  It is truly ridiculous.  You cannot draw parallels between a terrorist organization like the Hamas and a democracy like Israel. Such reports actually encourage terrorist organizations to exploit civilians. Reports like these which seek to delegitimize Israel, actually delegitimize democracies and their struggle against extremism everywhere."   

Recently the P5+1 namely, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, held talks with Iran over its nuclear program.  The US administration described the talks as being positive given that Iran agreed in principle to send some of its uranium deposits for enrichment outside the country.  Iran has always claimed it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  What is your comment?  

"In terms of Iran's claims about a peaceful nuclear program we have to look at the facts.  Several reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency have stated that the exact intentions of Iran's nuclear program cannot be clarified and may have a military dimension.  At the same time Iran is continuing uranium enrichment which would allow it to develop nuclear weapons and is making advances in its missile technology that would allow it to deliver those weapons against its neighbors. They are getting closer there is no doubt about it  
The development of nuclear weapons by Iran would pose an enormous problem for stability in the Middle East, the security of Israel and moderate Arab states, and would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella or even nuclear weapons. 
To this one can add the fact that the Iranian President continues to deny the Holocaust and threaten to "wipe Israel off the map." Tehran also provides support to terrorist organizations like the Hamas and Hizbullah, is undermining the stability of Arab states in the area and is even violating the rights of its own citizens.   
The P5 +1 discussions simply point to the fact that Iran is not an Israeli problem but an international one. I don't want to prejudge the negotiations, but it is important for us to remain focused on our goal, that is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  Israel supports all the diplomatic initiatives aimed at achieving this goal. Of course, in terms of Iran's threats against Israel and international security, every country reserves the right to self -defense and Israel is no exception. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeated what President Obama himself stated, namely that all options remain on the table.  However, we believe that applying real pressure including sanctions against this criminal regime will make Iran reconsider its blatant flaunting of its commitments and obligations. Iran is following a formula of misleading the international community, uncontrolled uranium enrichment and threats against Israel all while violating the rights of its own citizens. What else is necessary to convince everyone it is a threat?" 

Israel recently seized a ship with weapons near the Israeli coast and claims they were destined for Hezbollah. What evidence do you have? 

"The shipment seized simply proves that Iran is lending support to terrorist organizations. 500 tons of weapons were seized including 3,000 Katyusha rockets and 9,000 mortar bombs. The cargo carried customs labels of the Iranian armed forces and was sent with the shipping manifests of an Iranian company.  The evidence is conclusive and undeniable."   

What role can religious leaders play in finding a solution to the conflict?  Can they contribute? 

"We have all seen the deadly results of exploiting religion for political objectives as evidenced by the acts and behavior of extremists and radical regimes like Al Qaeda, Iran, etc. That is why I think moderate religious leaders have an important role to play in promoting peace and understanding primarily by rejecting extremism and stressing the commonalities of our religions - the things that bind us together as human beings.  When speaking about the three large monotheistic religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam- we must remember that we are part of the same family of Abraham.  As such, we share the same values of peace, compassion, love and respect as bestowed to us by our Common Creator.   That is why I have organized and participated in several interreligious conferences of Rabbis, Imams and Christian leaders aimed at promoting mutual understanding.  Given that Greece is a crossroads between the East and West I think it would be an ideal place for holding more interreligious dialogues of this kind in cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Church."   

What is the level of Greek - Israeli relations and in what fields? 

"Greek - Israeli relations are excellent.  First of all, we are neighbors with longstanding ancient ties. On an economic level, our bilateral trade has exceeded $542 million dollars.  Israel is the primary export market for Greek products in the Middle East, while Greece holds an important position among EU states (8th) for Israeli exports to Europe which is our largest trading partner. Tourism, particularly, Israeli tourists coming to Greece, is flourishing.  
In the field of culture, Israeli dancers and performers regularly participate in Greek cultural events.  There have been three "meetings of Greek and Israeli intellectuals" like Pavlos Matessis, Lena Divani and Amos Oz, etc. both in Greece and Israel.  Several famous Israeli writers like Amos Oz, David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, Etgar Keret and Sami Michael have been translated into Greek and are very popular here.   Greek music and culture are literally adored in Israel and speak to the soul of Israelis. 
On a political level, Greece is not only a member of the EU, but an important neighbor of Israel in the Southeast Mediterranean region that is a leader in the Balkans. There is an ongoing strategic dialogue and cooperation between our Foreign Ministries and defense establishments. 
An area where I believe we can improve relations even more is in the fields of high tech and green development. Israel has made great strides in these areas where we share many of the same advantages and challenges as Greece.  The Greek Prime Minister, Mr. George Papandreou, has stated that a green model of development is a priority for his government. Naturally, as a friendly country Israel would be more than happy to cooperate with in these critical fields for our mutual benefit."  

There is a feeling in Athens that Israel has very close ties with Turkey at the expense of cooperation with Greece. What is your take on this point of view? 

"Our aim is to develop friendly ties with all states in the Balkans, including Greece and Turkey.  It is not a zero sum game. We maintain a strategic cooperation and dialogue with Greece and would like to further develop them to their maximum potential." 

There has been talk among some circles about Israel joining the EU in the future. Could that happen? How are Israel's relations with the EU today?   

"EU membership might be premature. However, Israel is very close to Europe in terms of its culture, history and values.  The EU and Israel also have a highly developed cooperation through a series of agreements which institutionalize the diplomatic dialogue between the two sides and foresee close cooperation in fields like the economy, science, culture, transport, energy, the environment, security, etc.  Israel is the only country outside the EU which fully participates in the EU's R&D programs (7th Framework Program for Research and Development).   
Israel is one of Europe's largest trading partners in the Euromed area with total trade amounting to 24 billion Euros.  Europe is Israel's largest export market with Israeli exports to the EU reaching 11.3 billion Euros.   
Israeli artists and intellectuals are highly admired in Europe and are an almost permanent fixture at European cultural events.  Even in the field of sports Israel participates in European athletic gatherings.   
The EU also has an important role to play in terms of supporting the peace process and regional cooperation. Israel appreciates the EU's role in promoting dialogue between both sides through its cooperation with Israel, its economic aid to the Palestinians and through its strengthening of the institutions and capacity of the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas in order to also deal with extremist elements. 
The EU's European Neighbourhood Policy is important in fostering regional cooperation. Israel strongly supports the goals of the Barcelona Process and is a founding member the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership provides a framework of regional cooperation that includes Israel, Europe and moderate Arab states to help promote and consolidate peace.   
Israel and Europe not only have common values and a shared history but subscribe to the same vision for peace and prosperity in the Mediterranean region." 



- ARYE MEKEL, Πρέσβυς του Ισραήλ στην Ελλάδα
- ΜΑΚΗΣ ΒΟΡΙΔΗΣ, Υπουργός Υποδομών, Μεταφορών & Δικτύων

- ΓΙΑΝΝΗΣ ΔΙΑΜΑΝΤΙΔΗΣ, Υπουργός Θαλασσίων Υποθέσεων, Νήσων και Αλιείας

- BANTALI ANTAR, President of the Arab-Greek Chamber in Greece
- Μητροπολίτης Αγχιάλου, ΧΑΡΑΛΑΜΠΟΣ

- ΚΩΝΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΣ ΧΑΝΤΖΟΠΟΥΛΟΣ, Press and Communication Consultant, Cervantes Institute

- ΔΗΜΗΤΡΗΣ ΜΩΡΑΪΤΗΣ, Εκδότης της "YADES Group"
- Dr. MICHAEL LINHART, Ambassador of Austria in Greece
- X. ΠΑΠΑΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΟΥ, Επίτ. Πρόξενος της Ιταλίας στην Κορινθία και Αργολίδα

- SΑΜΙR AΒΟU GΗΑΖΑLΕΗ, Ambassador of Palestine

- ANTENOR BOGEA, Ministro Conceleiro of the Brazilian Embassy in Greece

- ΜΑΡΙΛΕΝΑ ΚΟΠΠΑ, Ευρωβουλευτής του ΠΑΣΟΚ
- ALI YAHYA, Πρέσβης του Ισραήλ
- DILLIP SINHA Πρέσβης της Ινδίας
- HANA MOTTLOVA Πρέσβης της Τσεχίας
- ΡΟΔΗ ΚΡΑΤΣΑ Ευρωβουλευτής Ν.Δ
- Μητροπολίτης Ζιμπάμπουε ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΣ