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April 27, 2018 11:52 am

Israeli Defense Minister: Idea of Achieving Middle East Peace Is an ‘Illusion’

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US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stand at attention outside the Pentagon, April 26, 2018. Photo Lieberman’s Twitter account.

The idea of achieving peace in the Middle East is an “illusion,” Israel’s defense minister said on Friday during a visit to the US.

“I think it’s really something non-realistic,” Avigdor Lieberman said in remarks at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy event. “The biggest problem for the Middle East is not Israel, but it’s Arab society.”

“The main problem…of Arab society, is that the middle class doesn’t exist,” Lieberman theorized.

Israel, Lieberman noted, might be facing more security threats on its borders than any other country in the world.

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“In the south, in the Gaza Strip, we have Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” he said. “In Sinai, we have the Islamic State. In Lebanon, we have Hezbollah. In Syria, we have al-Qaida. And behind all of them are the Iranians. And this is, of course, our reality, and we’re trying to manage the situation.”

“We have really, very, very good friends in Washington,” Lieberman said, a day after meeting at the Pentagon with his American counterpart, Defense Secretary James Mattis. “I think there is a deep understanding of how big the challenges are for Israel.”

Regarding the situation in Syria, Lieberman vowed that Israel would not let Iran “establish a forward base” there.

“A military presence [for Iran in Syria], we will not allow,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman explained that while Israel and Russia had different interests in Syria, the Russians were “very pragmatic players.”

“It’s possible to close deals with them,” he said.

“We try only to protect our security interests,” Lieberman emphasized. “We have one issue on which we will never compromise — it’s our security.”

Lieberman also reiterated his opposition to the July 2015 nuclear deal agreed to by Iran and six world powers.

“I think the West has grown soft, and they lost their political will and determination, and the deal with the Iranians is something that I cannot understand,” he stated.

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