Gal­lant: We’re ready for peace with Arab states

‘We have shared in­ter­ests and a shared enemy: Iran’

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONTLINES - • By ANNA AHRONHEIM

Is­rael is ready to make peace with ev­ery Arab coun­try, Con­struc­tion Min­is­ter and for­mer OC South­ern Com­mand Yoav Gal­lant told The Jerusalem Post in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

“All of the re­la­tions we have with Arab coun­tries, ev­ery re­la­tion­ship that is con­ducted be­hind closed doors and not pub­licly, this is done by their own choice. Is­rael is ready for peace with ev­ery Arab coun­try,” Gal­lant, who is also a mem­ber of the se­cu­rity cabi­net, told the Post in his of­fice in Jerusalem ahead of the pa­per’s an­nual Diplo­matic Con­fer­ence.

“If you look at the pic­ture, there is no real rea­son for Saudi Ara­bia or the Gulf states to fight with Is­rael. We have shared in­ter­ests, a shared enemy called Iran, which threat­ens Saudi Ara­bia from close with all that it has. And there­fore there is no rea­son we should not be in the process to have peace in the re­gion,” he said.

“Is­rael al­ways stretches its hand out for peace with its neigh­bors... as it did af­ter the Yom Kip­pur War with the Egyp­tians.”

While Is­rael has no of­fi­cial ties with any Arab coun­try ex­cept for Egypt and Jor­dan, the re­la­tion­ships with Saudi Ara­bia and Gulf states have grown stronger in re­cent years due to the shared con­cerns about Iran’s ac­tions and am­bi­tions in the Mid­dle East.

Ac­cord­ing to Gal­lant, who will be ad­dress­ing the Jerusalem Post Diplo­matic Con­fer­ence in Jerusalem on Novem­ber 21, the threat of Iran’s ex­pan­sion in the re­gion is a com­mon threat for Is­rael and all Arab states, as well as the West.

“The Ira­ni­ans are the most sig­nif­i­cant and dan­ger­ous threat to Is­rael and the en­tire Western world. The dis­tance from Iran to the Mediter­ranean Sea is around 1,500 km. – they have no busi­ness be­ing here,” he said.

“But Iran is a ter­ror­ist im­pe­ri­al­ist regime which is try­ing to build nu­clear weapons,” he con­tin­ued, ex­plain­ing that Tehran “con­trols” three coun­tries out­side its borders – in Iraq through its Shi’ite mili­tias, in Le­banon through Hezbol­lah, and in Ye­men through the Houthi rebels – and is try­ing very hard to en­trench it­self in Syria, which would pose a threat to both Jor­dan and Is­rael.

“We need to stop the Shi’ite fire,” Gal­lant stressed, em­pha­siz­ing the need for an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion with the United States, Europe and Rus­sia to push Iran and Hezbol­lah out of Syria.

“We need to make sure we don’t make the same mis­take that we did in Le­banon and al­low an Ira­nian mil­i­tary pres­ence in Syria,” he said, adding that Is­rael can­not al­low the Syr­ian regime to have ac­cess to ad­vanced weaponry which makes its way from Iran to Le­banon via Syria.

“We can take out Iran from Syria, but we need to con­tinue hav­ing a coali­tion with those who can help us,” he said, ex­plain­ing that there is no coun­try that wants Iran to re­main in Syria.

While Gal­lant did not men­tion the Gulf states or Saudi Ara­bia as part of that coali­tion, in Oc­to­ber IDF Chief of

Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot met with his coun­ter­parts from sev­eral Arab coun­tries, in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia’s Chair­man of the Gen­eral Staff Gen. Fayyadh bin Hamid al-Ruwaili, on the side­lines of the Coun­ter­ing Vi­o­lent Ex­trem­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tions Con­fer­ence for mil­i­tary com­man­ders in Wash­ing­ton, re­port­edly dis­cussing sev­eral re­gional is­sues, in­clud­ing Iran.

Re­la­tions be­tween Iran and Saudi Ara­bia are at their worst in years with both ac­cus­ing the other of sub­vert­ing re­gional se­cu­rity. Saudi Ara­bia’s Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man caused an up­roar ear­lier this year when he rec­og­nized Is­rael’s right to ex­ist.

While the afore­men­tioned meet­ing seems to have been the first pub­li­cized meet­ing be­tween Eisenkot and Ruwaili, it is the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year that the two of­fi­cers at­tended this con­fer­ence, where they are be­lieved to have also spo­ken about the threat posed by Iran.

Last Novem­ber, fol­low­ing Eisenkot’s first par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­fer­ence, he gave an un­prece­dented in­ter­view to the Saudi Elaph news­pa­per based in Lon­don and of­fered to share Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence about Iran with Riyadh, telling the news­pa­per that what he heard from the Saudis about Ira­nian ex­pan­sion was “iden­ti­cal” to Is­raeli con­cerns.

Call­ing for a new in­ter­na­tional al­liance in the Mid­dle East, Eisenkot stated that there needs to be “a large, com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic plan to stop the Ira­nian threat. This is what should be pre­vented in the re­gion,” he said, adding that “in this mat­ter there is com­plete agree­ment be­tween us and Saudi Ara­bia.”

The Houthis, who are armed by Iran and re­ported to have been trained by Hezbol­lah, have also fired sev­eral bal­lis­tic mis­siles into Saudi Ara­bia, in­clud­ing one that tar­geted Riyadh a day be­fore US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vis­ited the king­dom last May.

Ac­cord­ing to Gal­lant, Hezbol­lah is Iran’s front­ward army and there­fore it is im­por­tant that Amer­i­can sanc­tions be­gin.

Thank­ing Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion for leav­ing the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion nu­clear deal, Gal­lant said it “is was the most sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment” for Is­rael, which had been op­posed to the deal.

“I want to thank Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion for what they said when they left the nu­clear deal – that it doesn’t mat­ter what is signed, we know you are ly­ing to us. When Amer­ica says some­thing like that, it has a ma­jor ef­fect on Iran in terms of sanc­tions and po­lit­i­cal dilem­mas. It makes the Ira­ni­ans deal with their im­pe­ri­al­ist dreams,” he said, adding that he hopes the pres­sure will con­tinue.

In Au­gust De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Liber­man said that Iran was pro­vid­ing fund­ing to the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps’ Quds Force in Syria, Hezbol­lah, Shi’ite mili­tias in Iraq and Houthi mili­tias in Ye­men, as well as Ha­mas and Is­lamic Ji­had in Gaza, cost­ing them $2.5 bil­lion a year, “de­spite all the dif­fi­cul­ties and in­ter­nal is­sues” in the coun­try, Liber­man stressed.

“Iran wants to have Is­rael busy on sev­eral fronts – in Gaza, Le­banon and Syria – while at the same time it builds up its nu­clear arse­nal. It’s an asym­met­ric war,” Gal­lant said.

“Hezbol­lah is 10 times stronger than Ha­mas, and we must be aware of this and its con­se­quences. Any in­ci­dent with Hezbol­lah – and there will be war,” he warned, ex­plain­ing that Ha­mas is a weaker but more restive enemy. They are an­noyed. But, if Is­rael de­cides to, we can do what­ever we want in Gaza.”

Just days af­ter the in­ter­view was con­ducted, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu his wife, Sara, and se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials met the sul­tan of Oman on a sur­prise, eight-hour visit.

It was the first of its kind in over two decades and led to un­prece­dented pub­lic vis­its by Is­raeli min­is­ters to Gulf states.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Ay­oub Kara at­tended an in­ter­na­tional me­dia con­fer­ence in Dubai, and Cul­ture and Sport Min­is­ter Miri Regev at­tended the in­ter­na­tional judo con­test in Abu Dhabi, cap­i­tal of the United Arab Emi­rates, where Is­rael’s na­tional an­them was played af­ter two gold-medal wins. A week later Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Is­rael Katz ar­rived in Oman for an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence. •

(Marc Is­rael Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

YOAV GAL­LANT: The Ira­ni­ans are the most sig­nif­i­cant and dan­ger­ous threat to Is­rael and the en­tire Western world.

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