Yakov Kedmi: Israel Has the Right to Protect Its Borders, the Protesters Were Organized by Hamas
Sergey Pashkov, chief of Vesti Middle East Office:
— The world doesn't show a united front. The international community obviously intends to prevent the escalation of the conflict. But, of course, the US factor and position are game-changing. The international community obviously intends to prevent the escalation of the conflict. But, of course, the US factor and position are game-changing. President Trump's incredible obstinacy is well known. If he decides something, he seeks to get it done, ruining international agreements, ruining the architecture of diplomacy that has been built for years; fomenting uncertainty. Nobody can predict what will happen tomorrow. Despite different opinions within the international community, despite the fact that Trump and Netanyahu aren't supported by all, including the world's top leaders, the situation has come to a fine pass and we can't suppose what it can degrade into.
— Sergey, you have some strange sounds in the background. Is it an ambulance or the police? Are you safe and sound? The sound was rather alarming.
— Yes, ambulance sirens are wailing here in Jerusalem, though you were close. Indeed, the Israeli Defense Forces, the Police Special Forces, Border Police are all on alert. About 2,000 police officers are deployed at the Old City. People are afraid of tomorrow's unrest, night protests, the situation on the West Bank and especially a drastic escalation in the Gaza Strip. That's why leaves from the army are canceled, as well as maneuvers and other actions beyond these alarming developments. The situation is hard. I hope that the ambulance that has passed behind my back has nothing to do with these tragic developments. But you never know in our case.
— Sergey, thank you for your brilliant presentation.
Yakov, I must ask you. What's going on? I remind you that US President Trump intervened today, stating in plain terms that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, that, as a sovereign state…
— But that's Trump's stance.
— Of course, but Trump actively promoted it, and the decision of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem was taken many times, not by Trump. Trump implemented it before the new building was completed. The mission just changed the plate to officially become the embassy. It's a purely political gesture.
Yakov, why are you firing at the Palestinians?
Yakov Kedmi, public figure, Israel: There are no rallies on the West Bank. It's not the case of the West Bank. It's the case of the Gaza Strip, and it's Hamas that is the boss there. I remind you that Hamas is an Islamic terrorist organization of the Muslim Brotherhood who announced jihad against Israel to destroy it. Don't mix Hamas and all the Palestinians.
— Does Hamas have a lot of guns?
— Does Hamas have many guns?
— I don't know, but they have around 20,000 more or less professional fighters. But it doesn't matter.
Secondly, we care about our national interests. We do consider someone else's interests, but we don't care about them. That's why no living people will cross the Israeli border. We announced that and said: «You may rally as much as you want. When innocent boys come to the fence and try to break it, they are killed. That's it. We won't take any chances. People sent by Hamas won't get into our territory alive. If you want to die, you will die. But we will let nobody into our territory. That's who we are. It has nothing to do with the embassy. Hamas planned it long ago and timed it to the 70th anniversary of Israel, that's the way they celebrate it.
By the way, Nakba means a „catastrophe“ in Arabic, and it wasn't announced in 1948 but in 1921 when the British got Palestine. It was called a „catastrophe“ because Disbelievers acquired Jerusalem. I mean the Christians. Since then Nakba has existed. Now it has a new meaning, but we're Disbelievers too, we acquired our part of land too.
As for the embassy, this American show is meaningful and pointless at the same time. On the one hand, Trump has recognized Jerusalem the capital of Israel. But he did it in a silly way, Trump-style. He didn't specify what Jerusalem he meant. He named Jerusalem in general, like, he'll decide later on what part of it he meant. According to a new proposal which is being prepared, he wants to give about 4 streets of this Jerusalem to the Palestinians. What enraged Muslims, Palestinians, and Arabs, is that Trump allegedly recognized East Jerusalem that Israel had annexed, which the world disagreed with.
But a year ago Russia recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Quietly. Russia recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It was the first state to recognize it. Nobody had done it before. Two islands in the Indian Ocean don't count. On April 6, 2017, Russia was the first state to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
— But Russia stressed West Jerusalem?
— Russia mentioned West Jerusalem as no country, including the USA, recognized that the whole of Jerusalem belonged to Israel. Neither did Russia. The only reason why Russia doesn't open its embassy in West Jerusalem is that Russia, unlike the USA, recognizes the Palestinian State. So, Russia said that when it was allowed to open an embassy in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinian State made its capital, it would open an embassy in West Jerusalem. But all the celebrations of the Russian embassy will be held in Jerusalem, including Russia Day this year. And Americans didn't do it. Palestinians liked that Russia recognized West Jerusalem. No Arab or Muslim country saw any rallies. Proceeding from its domestic interests, America has decided not to specify what Jerusalem they meant. That's what provoked this backlash out of nothing. First and foremost, it exploded the reputation of the USA in Arab and Muslim states. Nothing more.
For me, the very recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital is very important. I'm glad that the US ended up by implementing the decision taken by Congress in 1995. It finally recognized Jerusalem. But had they done it in a more delicate way, it would have benefited us, the world, everybody.
Finally, this backlash reminds me of the Aleppo case, the gas attack against Syrian civilians. These are the same company, the same concert, the same people. So, we take their outcry towards us in the same way as you took it towards you, if not easier.
Konstantin Zatulin, State Duma committee for the CIS and relations with Russian nationals abroad:
— Some may share this stance, but I, for one, can't fully agree with it. Hamas might have planned and might be constantly planning some moves against Israel. But in this case, it's the US that has provided a spur for such a large-scale action, not only by recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, but by pointedly moving its embassy there contrary to the opinion of Palestinians and most countries. I want to say that they won't stop there. They've made it clear that Iran should be punished. And again, it was Israel who spurred it for a reason. By the way, I don't perceive Israel as a coherently thinking community when it comes to foreign politics. Discussions are still there. Some like Netanyahu, others don't. But he is in power in Israel now, let's face it. He exacerbates the situation in the Middle East. The question is if we seek an escalation in the Middle East? Do we seek to exacerbate the situation with Iran? Obviously, we don't, and here we have some differences despite the recognized mutual interests and so on. Of course, it's doesn't mean that everything about Israel is bad. We just are to be objective about their actions. Today, they enjoy obvious influence along with those who attended the ceremony; it's Kushner, primarily, the president's son-in-law and his official representative in all such formats; these people push Trump to this path, and he's ready to follow it both when it comes to moving the embassy and to the Iran issue.
By the way, you forgot you mention that Hamas has nothing to do with Iran. Hamas has to do with Saudi Arabia which is a US ally.
Yakov Kedmi: It's Qatar, not Saudi Arabia.
— Saudi Arabia as well.
— OK, but at least Qatar isn't…
Konstantin Zatulin: It isn't Iran.
— It's not Saudi Arabia either.
— Why doesn’t the US, proceeding from its integrity, impose sanctions on Qatar to punish it for the behavior of Hamas? I think it's not only Qatar but also Saudi Arabia. Let's just agree to differ. I guess you agree and it's hard to deny that what's going on undermines the US-backed forces that existed, exist, and hope to continue to exist in the Arab world. But now it's harder for them to explain their position. They hope that these US-backed forces will get seduced into a joint shady undertaking against Iran. Since they can't find common ground on the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the anti-Iranian sentiments will unite them. Apparently, Saudi Arabia is fighting against Iran, trying to stop it with all possible means along with a number of other Arab states. All this coupled creates instability in the Middle East. And the Israeli government hopes to secure its national interests in a less troublesome way amid this instability. It's a rather dangerous policy.
That's what I wanted to say.