When Israeli official Opher Aviran visits Charleston next weekend, he will face no shortage of complex and volatile conflicts to discuss.
If you go
WHAT: Discussion with Opher Aviran, consul general of Israel to the Southeastern United States
WHEN: 10 a.m. Oct. 13
WHERE: Stern Center Ballroom in the Stern Student Center, 66 George St., on the College of Charleston campus
COST: Free, baby-sitting provided
MORE INFO: 953-5682 or jewish.cofc.edu
Aviran, consul general of Israel to the Southeastern United States, will travel to the College of Charleston to discuss recent developments in the Middle East.
In particular, Aviran will address recent developments in Egypt and Syria, along with Iran’s nuclear program and developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The public discussion is sponsored by the college’s Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program.
Aviran took a moment to touch on those issues with The Post and Courier:
Q: What will you discuss when you come to Charleston?
A: I am honored to join a prestigious group of speakers addressing students from the College of Charleston, the Jewish community and the greater Charleston community this year. Israel is located in the middle of a turbulent region, an island of stability in a sea of instability. I welcome the opportunity to share and discuss the challenges both Israel and the United States face as a result.
Q: What do you consider the single-greatest concern to Israelis today?
A: Iran poses the most imminent threat not only to Israel and the Middle East but to the world. Iran is not building a peaceful nuclear program. Iran is developing nuclear weapons with the capability to wipe Israel off the map.
It is pursuing development of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) that, within three or four years, can reach Charleston or New York City. This is an issue of the greatest importance for the entire international community.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, “The last century has taught us that when a radical regime with global ambitions gets awesome power, sooner or later, its appetite for aggression knows no bounds. Now, we cannot forget it.”
Q: Do you find average Americans are familiar with that concern?
A: In my time serving the Southeast United States for the past three years, I have found that there is a genuine interest in Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship.
There is a definite commitment demonstrated by the Jewish and Christian communities alike to the ultimate alliance of the United States and Israel, to helping Israel defend itself.
Q: What is Israel’s response to the instability of leadership in Syria (especially given Hezbollah’s support for Bashar al-Assad)?
A: Israel is committed to seeing the Syrian regime disarmed of its chemical weapons and stands with the international community in making certain that those who use weapons of mass destruction will pay the price for it.
Israel believes that the message Syria receives will be received in Iran. Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, like Hamas in Gaza, has taken a prominent role in the butchering of 110,000 innocent Syrians by Assad. It also acts as the main sponsor of illicit arms trade into Lebanon.
Q: How will Israel react if relations warm between Iran and the United States?
A: After meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sept. 30, President Obama publicly stated, “Because of the extraordinary sanctions that we have been able to put in place over the last several years, the Iranians are now prepared, it appears, to negotiate.”
Israel supports this American initiative for Iran to fully dismantle its military nuclear program. We believe that the American administration can differentiate between the words of a charm offensive and actions.
Q: How has Israel’s relationship with the Egyptian government changed since the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi?
A: Israel, Egypt, Iraq and other countries face the growing threat of al Qaida and Islamic Jihad forces taking hold in the Middle East.
The consolidated hold of these groups on the Sinai Peninsula poses a threat to the sovereignty of the Egyptian nation. Extremist forces have already killed more than 100 Egyptian officers since Morsi’s ousting.
Egypt and Israel are partners in the fight against extremism and terrorism. We are collaborating to prevent further infiltration by terrorists from the Sinai and to enable the effectiveness of the Egyptian government over its own territory.
Q: What is your reflection on the future stability of the Middle East given the many leadership changes in recent years?
A: Change should not be perceived as either good or bad. The status quo is over.
Change is welcome when it ushers in peace, democracy and pluralism. Any new leaders in the Middle East should be judged by their ability to transform a country into a more democratic, just and peaceful nation acting as a good neighbor.
Israel will reach out to any leader that encourages such progress.
We face so many challenges that we have too much to lose if we cannot collaborate with good partners. Israel remains committed to its peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.
Q: Does Israel have a serious negotiating partner in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas?
A: Peace has been established when leaders demonstrated courage to turn a new page and lead people from war to peace.
True leaders like Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli leaders Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and King Hussein of Jordan reached out while educating their own people to end war and respect their neighbors.
Abbas should follow these examples and lead his own people to a historic peace based on security and mutual recognition in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel.