ISRAEL and Iran still remain far apart on how they view the road to peace and stability in the Middle East.
According to Israel, despite Iran having dismantled major parts of its nuclear program, it still views the country as the Primary threat to peace in the Middle East, and that it can come up with a nuclear bomb in 12 to 15 years, if it decides to do so.
“Iran continues to be the most important supporter of the subversive elements in the region. They are the most important supporter of the terror organizations in the region—both Hezbollah and Hamas—and, so to us, certainly, Iran still remains the No. 1 threat,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Center for Policy Research Economic and Asian Affairs Head Benjamin Krasna said.
Krasna recently made a tour of Asia, talking with counterparts and assessing the political and economic situation in the region.
He said Israel feels that threats emanating from the Middle East are very important to discuss because of the shared interests of peaceful countries, like the Philippines, in trying to protect their society and people.
He said Israel likes to maintain its good relations with the Philippines and other friendly countries, as well.
However, since Iran is geographically two countries away from Israel, Krasna feels that they are not an immediate threat, compared to those living across their border, like Lebanon and Palestine.
“We can say it is two countries away—Jordan, Iraq and then you have Iran—but certainly we are well within the range of the rockets and missiles that they have developed. We are very much within the range of all the military hardware that they continue to provide Hezbollah, Krasna added.
According to Krasna, Hezbollah has increased its role in the region by being very involved in supporting the Syrian government.
“Therefore, for us, it is no longer sitting only in Lebanon. It is also sitting today in Syria. So, in this regard, we are always concerned about Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and the threat that it presents. It is something that they openly say,” Krasna said.
Krasna added that the Hezbollah statements about the vulnerability of their security infrastructure installations are taken very seriously. He also said Hamas had also resorted to random attack by knives at several locations.
As for the role the United States (US) plays in the Middle East, Krasna believes it is still about oil and allies in the region.
“Who and where their strategic allies is balanced by the nuclear and terrorist threats. You have to be there also, because of the shocks that can happen in terms of the oil market,” he said.
However, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Tanhaei said their country wants nothing more than peace to be achieved in the Middle East.
“Military weapons have no place in our doctrines. Nuclear weapons will not make Iran or the Persian Gulf more secure. We want to have stable and long friendship with our neighbors. We want to have security and for the region to prosper,” Tanhaei said.
He said the international community now recognizes their natural and inherent right for nuclear research, while pointing out that Israel has 200 nuclear warheads in its possession.
“What we are doing are for humanitarian and economic purpose. There is no place for nuclear weapons. This allegations undermine our closeness with the international community as we open up; and improve our economic, commercial, cultural and political relations with countries around us and the world,” Tanhaei said.
Tanhaei said they want their country to have improved relations with countries in the Middle East, while Israel was not in favor of international agreements it has reached.
He then explained that Hezbollah is part of the political structure of Lebanon, and believes that Israel should hold talks with them.
“Talk to Lebanon. They are part of that country. Any problem should be solved through negotiations, and without the threat of force and violations of international laws,” Tanhaei said.
Tanhaei also believes the US is also in the Middle East, because of its strong security relations with some Arab nations and oil.
“There are so many geopolitical and security issues. Iran, for its part, is assisting in securing oil and commercial shipping lanes,” he said.
According to Tanhaei, they respect Philippine relations with countries, even with those where they do not have good relationship. He also believes the country can play a role in improving relationships among other countries.
Image credits: Rodel Alzona