An interview with Israeli Diplomat Paul Hirschson
by Jerry Gordon and Mike Bates (May 2010)
Following Israeli PM Netanyahu’s visit to Washington in late March, we had the opportunity to interview the Israeli Deputy Consul General for Florida and Puerto Rico, Paul Hirschson. His assignment covers political and economic affairs. Hirschson is a native of Johannesburg, South Africa who made aliyah to Israel in the mid-1980’s. Trained in finance and accounting with an MBA from Boston University, he spent more than a decade working in Israel’s burgeoning high tech sector. During his high tech experience he represented an Israeli firm in the Persian Gulf Region and had exposure to the great divide between Sunni Muslim states and Shia Iran. He brought this invaluable business and cultural experience with him when he chose to change careers and entered Israel’s Foreign Ministry as a diplomat.
His views expressed in this interview reflect Israel’s abiding concern about fashioning an effective strategy to deter Iran’s nuclear threat.
This interview with Deputy Consul General Hirschson occurred on the cusp of Netanyahu’s decision not to attend the mid April Nuclear summit in Washington, DC convened by Obama that unveiled a new US nuclear non-proliferation strategy.
Mike Bates: Good afternoon and welcome to 1330AMWEBY “Your Turn.” This is Mike Bates here in Pensacola. With me in the studio is Jerry Gordon. Welcome to the program, Jerry.
Jerry Gordon: Glad to be here.
Bates: Jerry is the Senior Editor for the New English Review and the blog, “The Iconoclast” and we have joining us Israeli Deputy Consul General for Florida and Puerto Rico, Paul Hirschson. Welcome to “Your Turn.”
Deputy Consul General Paul Hirschson: Hi Mike, Jerry, nice to be with you.
Gordon: Glad to have you.
Bates: Thank you for joining us today. Jerry and I have invited Deputy Consul General Paul Hirschson to join us today to talk about the state of affairs in Israel, particularly as it pertains to the Iranian nuclear threat which seems to be bubbling above the surface now getting more and more involved. Before we get into those kinds of details though, Deputy Consul General Hirschson could you give us a little bit of background and how you made your way to Miami.
Hirschson: I grew up in South Africa and my entire childhood was there until age 21. I moved to Israel in 1985. Following a short integration period learning Hebrew which wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve done, I did my military service – we have the draft in Israel. I then went into the private sector, into business. Israel has a very dynamic high tech sector. I spent about 10-12 years in Israel’s high tech sector and then about six years ago I joined the foreign ministry. That is the Israeli version of the State Department.
Bates: So growing up in South Africa, does that make you an African Israeli?
Hirschson: Well it would make me first of all I suppose an African Jew, although primarily, I am an Israeli.
Bates: The topic that will be discussed in Pensacola this evening is the implication of Iran’s nuclear aspirations. We have discussed this issue many times on this program. But it is a topic that needs endless discussion until there is some resolution. What kind of overall threat does your office and Israel see coming from Iran?
Hirschson: To put it into perspective I think it’s important to start by saying that as far as Israel is concerned this is not only Israel’s problem. This is certainly also Israel’s problem but not only Israel’s problem. I think it is important because it should be understood that there are numerous countries, both close to Iran and far away, including the United States, which could potentially face a very real national security threat from Iran’s nuclear military aspiration. Specifically with respect to Israel, which is where I speak with the most knowledge and responsibility, I would say to you the following: When we hear the Iranian regime saying repetitively and unashamedly that they would like to wipe me and my country off of the face of the earth, we understand, with sometimes bitter experience, that words have meaning and meaning all too often has consequences. The margin for error is not very large if you remember that Israel is a country roughly a third the size of Florida. I know that perhaps I am biased, but I somehow feel a little bit more comfortable with the British having nuclear military technology than the Iranians.
Bates: Well that is certainly understandable. Much of the conversation that has taken place with regards to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and there is some speculation that they already may have some, officially there is a belief that they have enough enriched uranium to make nuclear devices, if they haven’t already done so. Could you address the prospect of Iran having nuclear weapons, not necessarily using nuclear weapons, though I realize that is a severe threat as well? How would it tip the balance of power merely by Iran possessing nuclear weapons that they could if they wanted to, use, without actually having to use them?
Hirschson: Taking your assumption, the reason it won’t play out is because of the very dire ramifications for the international community. First of all there is the possibility that they will do exactly what they say they would like to do. But let’s assume that they won’t and that they will merely have the technology and not use it to deliver non conventional weapons. There are a number of very real issues. One of which is the kind of activity which Iran can undertake under the strategic umbrella of having that nuclear capability. If you look at Iran today and you think of it through their narrative, through their perspective, they look around the world and they say to themselves, look, Iraq as it turned out did not have nuclear military capability and their regime is no longer there. North Korea as it turns out does have nuclear military capability and their regime is still there and it is highly unlikely that anybody is going to try and remove it through military means. The Iranians ask themselves which option makes more sense for them and they are whole-heartedly committed to getting this technology. The core issue of the Middle East with all due respect to us in Israel is not Israel and not the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Now that is not to say that there is not a very real issue between Israel and the Palestinians and I don’t want to belittle it. To us and to the Palestinians it is critical. But the Middle East itself is consumed by a long historical and, I would put it to you dangerous relationship between Persian, Shia Iran, and Arab Sunni, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a number of other states in the region. Iran senses that it’s time has come to address what it believes has been an unequal relationship between Sunni and Shia. It sees the Sunni as having always looked down on the Shia. At the same time, Iran wants to reassert what it sees as its rightful role as Persians dominating the area. We should remember as well that it is not only a question of delivering a nuclear weapon. It is also the very real problem of a potential arms race in the region. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other countries have already indicated see that if Iran goes that route they will be forced to develop their own nuclear defense. We see the very real possibility of technology transfer and worse than that, technology transferred to the non-state actors, to the Hezbollah’s and the al Qaeda’s of the world. We’ll see the possibility of Iranian nuclear and missile technology threatening the Western hemisphere. We know today, there are direct flights between Teheran and Caracas in Venezuela. That is the only commercial flight in the world in today’s economy on which you cannot buy a ticket for the next ten years.
Bates: That’s interesting.
Gordon: Yes that is.
Hirschson: And we have a question mark as to who will be the first client of Iran if not Venezuela? Will they transfer technology to the non-state actors? What kind of activity will they undertake under the strategic umbrella of having this technology and how will it impact on investors’ decisions as to whether to invest in Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and in other countries in the region? The very real question which we face is will Iran simply do what they have told us if they have the technology in hand?
Bates: Well, one way of predicting future behavior is to look at past behavior and for decades Iran has conducted proxy terrorist attacks via non-state actors like Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others and they have used whatever weapons they have had available to them. If they were to get a nuclear arrow in their quiver, I think it would be very foolish to think they wouldn’t ultimately use it, probably by a proxy actor, so they could shrug their shoulders and say it wasn’t us when the mushroom cloud goes off over New York or Washington or Tel Aviv.
Hirschson: Well, I agree with you. I don’t want to be a prophet of doom. However, but I would say the following to you. When it comes to a delivery system which could be an individual with a suitcase, the truth of the matter is that at that level it’s not so easy to get the portable nuclear device into Israel. It is a lot easier to get into and travel around Europe, the United States and many other parts of the world. Israel has very real concerns about other forms of delivery systems whether are they Intercontinental Ballistic missiles or airplanes. We have various defense mechanisms in place, but in terms of the non-state actors delivering a suitcase, Israel is one of the more difficult places to get into.
Gordon: However, Iran, Syria and other partners do have something that these non-state actors can use and that is biochemical warfare. Any means of delivering that capability is something that the State of Israel’s military planners are also concerned about. They see the necessity in terms of intercepting bio-chemical weapons that could be used against the Israeli population. Here in the United States we have had our own experiences with those threats just after 9/11. I’m sure Israeli military planners are also aware that is a possibility.
Hirschson: Yes. Yes, absolutely. The truth is this isn’t a game. This is real life. I have personally experienced seven suicide bombings around downtown Tel Aviv and there have been numerous, countless others in Israel. This is relatively low tech conventional weaponry that they are using. We are talking about real issues. We are talking about Israeli national security considerations as well as other countries around the world. We are talking about strategic interests of the United States of America and of China. Realize that 40% of the world’s oil is transferred through the Straits of Hormuz on a daily basis, which is controlled by Iran. This is something we need to take extremely seriously. Iran at the moment is enriching admittedly at relatively low level of enrichment, something in the region of seven pounds of uranium a day. I am not a nuclear physicist but I don’t think it’s too difficult to do the math and say they have “x” amount, they need “y” amount. It will take them however many weeks or months, before they have it, if they don’t already have the quantity they need. What remains to be done to make the political, not the technological, the political decisions as to whether they want to have these weapons.
Gordon: Given our last segment discussion we’d like to pose a question to you about sanctions because that has been much in the news recently. Secretary of State Clinton has made rather significant noise in discussions with both Russia and China about inducing them to come forward and perhaps participate in another round of UN Security Council deliberations about sanctions. However, we also had support from both houses of Congress that have passed legislation to implement unilateral sanctions. The toughest one being to curtail the offshore delivery of refined gasoline and other petroleum products to the Islamic Republic. What is your view?
Hirschson: I would say that it is a little bit wider than sanctions in terms of the approach to Iran’s nuclear military aspirations. We need a triangular strategy of political isolation, economic sanctions and the credible threat of a military strike. Which is not to say the use thereof, just the credible threat thereof, and if any one of these three is missing it weakens the entire strategy. The sanctions which are being proposed can be compared with voluntary ones which have had a significant impact on the Iranian regime. Just a few months ago we saw elections in Iran and witnessed outrage in most of the population in Iran of the very cynical manipulation of the result of those elections. Let’s be honest, these were not American style democratic elections. We are talking about democratic elections only for those who are allowed to run for office. Something akin to the old apartheid system in South Africa where I grew up. The situation at the moment I think is that the world, including the Arab states, Europe, Russia, China have come around or are coming around to an understanding that this is an issue which is today on the agenda. Right now that directly influences and threatens everybody’s interest, some more firmly but pretty much everybody
The current strategy which I think is probably the correct strategy of the American administration is to run it through the United Nations. There have been three rounds of relatively modest sanctions imposed on Iran and there is talk about ratcheting it up to a significant level. You know we have to all remember that when it comes to military action, we all know how it starts; none of us know how it plays out. Nobody wants to go that route and it would be prudent of us to at least give economic sanctions an honest attempt. Because the alternative is either something which is unacceptable to everybody if Iran acquires this technology or that we have to go into a far more uncertain future.
Bates: You grew up in South Africa; you are very familiar with apartheid. President Jimmy Carter has famously accused Israel of being an apartheid state. You have had personal experience with real apartheid in South Africa. Considering that Israel allows Muslims and Arabs to serve in the Israeli Knesset, Israel could hardly be considered an apartheid state. Can you address that accusation which is so often leveled at Israel?
Hirschson: You know I actually bought President Carter’s book. I must say as a foreign diplomat, a guest in your country, far be it from me to criticize an American President. I bought his book ironically on a visit of mine to the Persian Gulf. I say ironically because, if you understand what apartheid is all about, the truth of the matter is that there is no place where it is practiced more than in the Persian Gulf today.
Bates: Right, well you are far more diplomatic than I. I will in fact criticize that statement by President Carter. You very diplomatically did not condemn a former President and that’s fine, I can certainly understand your position. I think the words that he chose were unfortunate at best, but those are my words not yours. Let us follow up on that apartheid issue. Apartheid which existed in your native South Africa was clearly created along racial lines. How can that term exist, at all, in the Israeli Palestinian conflict?
Hirschson: Mike if I can, just for a second, I must tell you that it’s true that I’m an Israeli diplomat. You are the first person in six or seven years since I have been a diplomat who has accused me of being diplomatic.
Bates: It wasn’t actually an accusation; it was more of a compliment because I am incapable of being diplomatic under any circumstances.
Hirschson: To the substance of your question, we all know it is no secret there is a dispute between the Israel and the Palestinians. There is a dispute between Israel and the Arab world. We all know that. The idea that this dispute at least from the Israeli side has anything to do with race and racism is absurd. This is an illustration of an ignorance of the reality of what Israel is all about. You should remember that Israel, the manifestation of the national self-determination of the Jewish people consists of Jews from Arab countries, Jews from India, Jews from Ethiopia, as well as Jews from Europe, the United States and elsewhere. The Jews are a multi-racial people. First and foremost, before anything else, the fact that there is a dispute between us and the Arab world and the Palestinians is something that nobody denies, everybody knows that. We have a situation where you could say that there are two people with competing claims over one piece of land and we need to try and find a resolution to that. You well know that since the 1991 Madrid Conference after the First Gulf War, there have been a number of rounds of discussions between Israel and the Arab world from which arose a peace treaty between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. There have been various agreements between Israel and the Palestinians which unfortunately were only partially implemented. We would like nothing more than to get down to a real discussion of the issues. It is a cheap shot to turn it into a racial dispute because that is an emotive term which people use to prey on other people’s sympathy.
Gordon: Prime Minister Netanyahu during his visit to the United States a few weeks ago spoke at AIPAC. In addition to the nuclear threat from Iran, he spoke about the threat of Militant Islam. This is a term which, by the way, has been virtually wiped out of our National Security Lexicon here in the United States. Isn’t that the great divide which essentially prevents the resolution of any disputes between Israel and the Palestinians?
Hirschson: Some people use the terminology and some people don’t. I think we all know what we are talking about. The Arab world, the Muslim world is racked today with an internal conflict to which we are not a party. They are really fighting amongst themselves. It’s an issue by the way in which we are too often a venue. I’ll give you an illustration. Some months back there were elections in Lebanon and the March 14th movement lead by Saad Hariri was the leading party, but did not achieve an overall majority. Saad Hariri was given the mandate to form a coalition government. After a few months of negotiations, he handed the mandate back to the President, who in Lebanon is a figure head position much like that in Israel, or like the Queen of England. He said, look, I cannot do it. I am not able to put together a coalition. The next day two missiles were fired by Hezbollah into Israel over an issue to which we are not a party, yet are too often the venue. The Arab world is facing and not only the Arab world (Iran, we should remember is not an Arab country but a Muslim country) is facing internal conflicts, internal issues to which we are not a party. Neither Israel nor the United States are involved in these internal conflicts and yet we are very often a venue. 9/11 was partially a manifestation of this idea of not being a party to an issue to which you are a venue which is not to say that we don’t have very real issues with them and that they don’t have real issues with us. The question is, how do you behave? Am I going to take a jacket full with explosives and put it on my ten year old daughter and send her into the Gaza Strip and tell her to go to a restaurant or catch a bus and blow herself up and kill as many passersby who happen to be on their way to work or drinking a cup of coffee or am I going to sit down with the people that I don’t like and have a conversation and try and reach a compromise? That is really the issue at the end of the day. I hate to get back to the issue of suicide bombings. I don’t know why we call them suicide bombings, they should really be called homicide bombings but that’s the terminology we use. I witnessed 200 yards from my apartment in Tel Aviv, the aftermath of a suicide bombing with human remains hanging from trees and in the gutters in the street and this is now how people behave.
Gordon: Israel is the canary in the mines of this absurd militant form of Islam that rises against you and other Israelis every day. Essentially, it divides Muslim from Muslim in the region. We saw this in Iraq with sectarian bombings this past month. There is another issue that we in the United States have heard recently. There have been objections in the media to the roughly 3 billion dollars of military grants-in-aid that the US provides Israel every year. Could you address how the United States benefits from this military assistance program with Israel?
Hirschson: Do you want the short answer or long one?
Gordon: Whatever answer you wish to give.
Hirschson: I’ll give you the short answer. I would refer you and everybody listening to go to the Bloomberg website and look for the statement put out by American Congressman Steve Rothman. He explains in the most straightforward manner the incredible return on investments that the United States gets from its military aid to Israel. Let me put it in context. In your 2010 government budget, you are investing 75 billion dollars in Afghanistan. 65 billion dollars in Iraq and 3.25 billion dollars into Pakistan in military and economic aid. Israel is receiving from the United States 3 billion dollars of military aid only. There is no economic aid included in that figure. 70 to 75 percent of US military aid will be spent in the United States of America on American technology and equipment which goes some way towards driving and progressing research and development in the defense industries in the United States of America. In the US economy today that spending goes towards supporting jobs. Israel is America’s greatest strategic asset in the Middle East. Israel is providing the US with a logistic center whereby you have deposited military assets that you can access should you need them at any point. Israel is where you have aircraft carriers periodically docking and refueling and going through maintenance. Israeli and American engineers are involved in joint research projects driven by this military aid, much of which is performed in the United States. I refer you to the David Sling and the Arrow 3 anti-missile projects. This is military technology which would cost both the United States and Israel significantly more if we were doing it separately as opposed to doing it together. These are projects which have already been implemented on the ground that protect both Israeli and American servicemen who are out there in the region in their hundreds of thousands.
Israel also provides access to real time, minute by minute intelligence, about Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran and other non-state terrorist actors and terror sponsoring states in the Middle East and elsewhere. For 2% of what you are investing this year in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, the military aid to Israel is incomparable. I would say this is one of the best investments that you have ever made. I would also say that it’s very critical to Israel. Nobody is saying that this is a one way street by any means. I believe that Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, is a country which has so many commonalities with the United States of America. It is a pluralistic, cosmopolitan, entrepreneurial society, a society which places great emphasis and weight on education. Israel is your longest standing democratic pro-American ally in the region protecting shipping lanes in the Red Sea, present in an area which dominates the world energy market. As I mentioned earlier, 40% of the world’s oil is flowing through the Persian Gulf on a daily basis. The idea that this is not in the national security interest of the United States is fallacious.
Gordon: One of the things that our listeners here on the Gulf Coast should realize is that we have two Israeli owned technology companies who employ Americans here in both Florida and over in Mississippi. One is the American subsidiary of Israeli company Elbit that has a facility near Tallahassee producing aviation displays and other technical devices. Over in Mississippi is a production line for one of the premier pieces of technology that Israel has contributed to the world’s military and police authorities that is Israel Aircraft Industries UAV plant in Mississippi.
Caller Mark: Mr. Hirschson, I have a question. All you said was true about Israel being an ally that benefits us. However, as we saw in the First Gulf War when Israel could have been used militarily we couldn’t politically because of fear of offending our Arab allies. We couldn’t even go after the missiles that were in the Western Desert of Iraq.
Hirschson: Very briefly I want to point out, the first time in Israel’s history, that we did not respond to an attack was during the First Gulf War. When we had nothing to do with Iraq invading Kuwait. The international community lead by the United States, including a number of Arab countries took action to repel that invasion. We were submitted to missile attacks from Iraq. At the request of the United States we, for the first time in our history, did not respond to an attack and we sat there and absorbed it. I think the point that your caller made is a very legitimate one, a very real one, in Israel, we don’t live in the nicest neighborhood. We need to understand who our neighbors are, what it is all about. Kuwait is a country where 95% of its economy is based on oil. Israel on the other hand is a country which is spear heading the development of solar technology. This is going to play out in the coming two or three decades.
Bates: The question that I have which I’m going to phrase in such a manner that I’m not going to be asking you to comment on internal American politics. I read a report recently of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House where he was denied photo ops, he did not have the joint press conference with President Obama and they did not have many of the customary formalities and protocols that are associated with a visiting head of state. I perceive that as a snub of Benjamin Netanyahu. My question is, do you perceive the Israeli government being concerned about America’s commitment to Israel?
Hirschson: The answer to that question is no. On all of the metrics that are measured, I do think that the United States and Israel have a very strong relationship in terms of supporting what is called QME, the Qualitative Military Edge that Israel has in the area. The bilateral relationship between Israel and the United States is a very solid relationship. There is the question as to how do we move forward? The critical issue to ask in Israel, is finding a resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. And there different parties and different players have different opinions as to how to move forward. That is not a reflection of the bilateral relationship between Israel and the United States.
Gordon: You realize that our country is not only the administration but also its people. In the midst of these tense discussions that have occurred between the Obama administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu, there were two overriding polls that you may recall revealed the solid backing of Israel by most Americans. One was a Gallup poll that clearly indicated approximately two thirds of those Americans polled supported Israel. Then there was The Israel Project Poll which indicated that in any potential conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, overwhelmingly 8 to 1, Americans would support Israel.
Hirschson: You know I want to say two things. I have been in the United States now two years. I have another year before I go back home. The warmth, the welcome and the support that I have encountered across the state are overwhelming.
It’s not only an overwhelming support that I’ve encountered here in the United States for Israel but researchers have shown consistently over many years that there is no populace anywhere in the world which holds the United States in higher regard than that of the Israeli people.
We do regard ourselves as being your best friend or amongst your best friends and it manifests in a number of ways. I’ll give you one which I think is really a critical indicator. There are more Israeli companies traded on NASDAQ than there are European, Chinese, Japanese and Korean companies combined.
Israelis see the United States as more than just a friend. We see the United States as a people with significant fundamental commonalities which give rise to significant common interests going way beyond the issue of the conflicts in the Middle East, into the economy and culture. We recently had the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bat Sheva Dance Ensemble performing in the United States both of which are always well received. July 4th is almost a public holiday in Israel. We all have to go to work but we party anyway.
We in the West place at the center of our discourse, the rights and the freedom of the individual, the rule of law and equality before the law. We are only just beginning because we are on the right side of history.
Bates: I concur with that.
Caller Mark: Thank you. Yes sir, first of all I want to thank you for the great hospitality your people showed me when I was in Israel and I graciously always will remember that time. My question has to do with the Arrow Project or its derivative.
Is there anything you could say about that? It looks like you may be using that sometime in the future.
Hirschson: What I would say is that there are Arrow One and the Arrow Two versions. We are talking of anti-missile technology which has already deployed and I will add saving both American and Israeli lives in good numbers. There is the joint development project by Israeli and American engineers we call David’s Sling and the Arrow Three project which is the cutting edge of anti-missile technology. There was recently a very significant field test with virtually no failure. That was about two months ago so this is a project which both the United States and Israel are extremely excited about. It changes the narrative certainly for Israel when it comes to being able to deploy a defensive mechanism against missile technology.
Bates: The Arrow program obviously is the successor to the Patriot Missile System that was so widely publicized during the First Gulf War. I understand that the technology has significantly advanced since then and it is far more reliable and far more accurate.
Hirschson: It’s an entire new world we are talking about. Significantly improved.
Bates: Well I pray the day will not come any time soon when Israel will need to test the system in a real war. That is part of the issue if the Iranians do get the nuclear weapons. Some people believe that threat could escalate in the event that we are unable or incapable of containing the Iranian Nuclear threat.
Gordon: We are grateful that you would consider holding this discussion which has been remarkable. Today your Prime Minister had a news conference in Jerusalem addressing the upcoming nuclear summit that occurs in Washington DC on April 12th and the 13th.
Gordon: Netanyahu said “I’m not concerned that anyone would think that Israel is a terrorist regime. Everybody knows a terrorist and rogue regime when they see one and believe me they see quite a few around Israel.” He said it would be a welcomed change that the U.S. and other countries would be discussing the danger that nuclear weapons even crude ones would find their ways into the hands of terrorists.
Gordon: The other aspect of this conference is that Israel is one of the few non-signatories for the nuclear proliferation treaty.
Gordon: I wonder if you might remind our listener audience as to the U.S. Israeli policy on Israel’s nuclear program which is unique.
Hirschson: Well, there are two things here. The first is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which is an international treaty signed by many, I think signed by most of the countries in the world. Israel is not a signatory to this treaty. Iran by the way is a signatory to the treaty. Iran is also a country which is in flagrant violation of this treaty. There are many international treaties on many subjects, I remind you of the Kyoto Agreement which the United States chose not to join, but Israel did sign. So that is one side of things and I think that is more technical and logistical. The other question with which you ask referring to Israel’s policy, Israel’s policy is very straight forward. We will not be the party that introduces, nuclear weaponry into the conflicts of the Middle East. It’s very straight forward. I hope and trust that we will not discover that another country that looks like Iran, will institute nuclear weaponry into the conflict.
Bates: There is a nuclear summit coming up next week that Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to attend. There will be other representatives from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I believe something over 40 nations will be in attendance. The discussion will focus upon President Barack Obama’s new nuclear weapons policy as far as the United States is concerned. Our stated policy now being that we will not even threaten to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state. This is regardless of what kind of attack may occur on us from them which is a radical departure from all post World War II policies. What do you see as Israel’s interest in this? I mean their vested interest overall and what Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to achieve through his participation?
Hirschson: President Obama said yesterday while signing a strategic nuclear agreement with the Russians that Iran’s acquiring nuclear military technology is unacceptable. There are many issues which are and will be discussed. but that’s the focal point. I think it is safe to say that the spotlight will shine quite brightly on Iran’s intentions, on Iran’s military nuclear aspirations. This is my understanding of the overall aim of the summit, and also that of Israel.
Bates: Well let us hope and pray that there will be some international consensus drawn from that summit. The Russians and the Chinese seem to be the most hesitant to go along with serious sanctions. Both countries have been victims of terrorism committed by radical Islamists, Moscow as recently as last month with subway bombings. Let us hope that other nations see that the threat is not limited only to Israel and only to the United States that this truly is a global situation that needs to be addressed globally.
Hirschson: Thank you very much for this interview.
Bates: Very good. Thank you very so much for joining us today.
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