Assessment: As Gilad Erdan readies to focus solely on his role as Israeli ambassador to the UN, he tells Israel Hayom that the Biden administration “accepts Israel’s position that the original nuclear deal was not good, and his hope that Israel will be included in the US Visa Waiver Program by 2023.
Q: Will the visa waiver come at a cost, perhaps Israel agreeing to a consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinians?
“I am not aware of any price Israel has been required to pay and I don’t believe one exists. Look, this is also an American interest from the perspective of both tourism and business. Israel is the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East, and one of its closest allies in the world. We cooperate on intelligence and other issues; the administration, including Democratic members of Congress, are very pleased with that cooperation.
“In the near future, Iron Dome may protect American soldiers in Iraq and other places. Countries that are not as close to the United States are included in the Visa Waiver Program. Israel should have been a part of it a long time ago.”
Q: Has the administration been persuaded to give up the idea of a consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem?
“My impression is that the administration has yet to give up on this idea. The issue was raised in almost every meeting I had with representatives of the administration. They repeatedly explained that the president committed to going ahead with this. We explain the difficulties it will create for us. First and foremost, that sovereignty in Jerusalem is one of our most basic values. Various propositions were made to solve the dispute, but at the moment a resolution has yet to be reached. Even within the family there can be disputes, but that doesn’t mean they have to cast a shadow over our relations.”
In-depth talks on an American Plan B for Iran
Q: You have been involved for almost a year in the dialogue between Israel and the US on the Iranian issue. Do the Americans not understand that Iran is playing them and racing toward the bomb?
“The Israeli perception is that Iran is continuing to progress with its nuclear program and wishes to be a nuclear threshold state, while waiting for a convenient opportunity to break out. I think there is disagreement between Israel and the US and others in the West over this analysis. This difference of opinion touches on the question of what is the most efficient way to stop Iran, and that is a point on which there is a deep dispute.
“We believe that only if Iran sees a credible and significant military threat is there a chance that threat won’t have to carried out, and then, perhaps, a stronger and broader agreement with a longer scope can be reached. On the other hand, the Americans believe that the first step should be to bring the international community on board and that this should be done through a return to the old agreement, a step that we see as a mistake.
“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering ”…” Daniel 9:27
More countries could join the Abraham Accords
Q: Did Israel make a commitment to work in full cooperation with the United States, or not to operate unilaterally, when it comes to Iran?
“For many years, it has been common practice whenever there been an operation that concerns regions in which the United States has an interest, for Israel to try and notify them in advance. From what I was exposed to in my time as ambassador, I am not aware of any condition that requires Israel to restrict itself.”
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