A whirlwind of speculation surrounds the possibility of renewed peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives. But Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, the veteran Israeli diplomat who is currently serving as Israel‘s consul general in Atlanta, told a Kiwanis Club of Atlanta luncheon Sept. 6 that in her opinion only the “Arab quartet” could find a solution for the intractable confrontation.
That quartet, which she described as including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar and the Emirates, are, “What in Arab terms are moderate, stable countries which have a lot to do with Israel.”
She added that Israelis and Saudis have had economic relations “for a long time.” “Saudi Arabians love certain Israeli foods” with an appreciation for kosher foods, “just like the Israelis.”
She also said that Israel currently has especially good relations with Egypt, and Jordan, with which it shares a large number of problems including ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; water shortages and dealing with refugees.
According to published reports, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin the date and place of the proposed Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations as Mr. Putin extends his influence in the region.
U.S.-mediated bilateral negotiations came to a dead end last year, and are not likely to be attempted again during the current U.S. administration.
Ms. Shorer has lived through these sorts of talks before during her nearly 40-year service in the diplomatic corps. A former research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University‘s SAIS Center for Strategic Studies, she published a paper titled “U.S.-Israel Relations vis-a-vis the Peace Talks.”
Most recently, she completed a program regarding the global issue of weapons of mass destruction at the Near East South Asian Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington.
She is a former ambassador to Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina and a former minister of congressional affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Prior to her service in Europe, she was first secretary and mission spokesperson for Israel’s Mission to the United Nations in New York.
From 2007-10, she served as projects director, Euroasia Division for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and her most recent post before coming to Atlanta was desk director at the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Center for Policy Research.
Shortly after her arrival in Atlanta in the summer last year, the Israeli government had considered closing its consulate general here along with several other posts in the U.S. and abroad for budget considerations.
In January, however, the consulate was spared and a grateful Ms. Shorer at the time said that the growing Jewish, African-American, Hispanic and evangelical communities in the Southeast have been extremely supportive of the consulate’s activities.
During the Kiwanis luncheon, she underscored Israel’s strengths economically and the close ties between U.S. and Israeli companies. With a population today of 8 million it has developed over the course of only 70 years its status as the No. 1 country in the world in terms of start-up companies per capita and only second behind the U.S. She added that 250 multinational companies, two-thirds of which are American, have research and development centers in Israel.
While the economic ties between the U.S. and Israel have grown stronger, in her view the world is increasingly dangerous.
She contrasted the situation in the 20th century when Israel faced “existential threats” from “secular dictators who constantly tried to go to war with a tiny country to destroy it,” with the threats faced today, which, she called, “of a different nature and less predictable.”
Israel faces continually serious threats, she said, from the Shi’a Islamist militant group and political party Hezbollah; the Palestinian-Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas and ISIS.
Hezbollah, she said, has one hundred thousand missiles based in Lebanon that can target any point in Israel. Turmoil in Turkey and Syria spills over into Israel as refugees seek to enter the country.
But, she pointed to Iran as the greatest source of danger as “the No. 1 funder of terrorism” with a reach extending as far as South America.
She criticized the U.S. nuclear agreement with Iran for thawing what were the hundreds of millions of dollars in oil sales the U.S. held. “Iran now has more resources to divert to terrorism,” she added, saying “Israel is prepared to deal with the threat.”
Cutting short her prepared comments so she could answer questions, she responded to a question of how is the U.S. election perceived in Israel. She said that the election is being followed perhaps even more closely by the general population in her country than that of the U.S.
Without expressing any opinions about the two major-party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, she said Israelis are mystified and startled by the candidates’ behavior in what is supposed to be the leading democratic nation in the world.
In response to a question about current Israeli-Russian relations, she said that the Russians have been warned that Israel’s border with Syria is sacred and that the country wouldn’t tolerate any threats to it.