Israeli and American flags
Israeli and American flagsIsrael news photo

The threat of a nuclear Iran has pushed Israel and the United States closer together, national security advisor Prof. Uzi Arad told the opening session of the 10th annual Herzliya Conference Sunday night. The Herzliya Conference draws together Israeli and international participants from the world of government, business, and academia to address national, regional and world strategic issues.

Arad said the two most pressing security issues for Israel are Iran and the stalled talks with the Palestinian Authority, which he said continues to block diplomatic progress.

The Goldstone report was roundly attacked by both Arad and Major General Benny Gantz, who told the conference that his condemnations of Israel’s conduct in the Operation Cast Lead campaign in Gaza last year constituted a “Trojan Horse” that “judges us unfairly.”

Gantz noted relative quiet on both the northern and southern borders but warned that both Hamas and Hizbullah continue to smuggle weapons that threaten to turn the areas into a new theatre of war.

The political front also did not escape the attention of Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, who tried to widen his field of economics by arguing that more progress in reaching an agreement with Palestinian Authority would result in a higher economic growth rate.

“It would be better if we were to talk more on the ‘peace process’ with our neighbors,” he said at the closing speech of the first evening of the three-day conference. He recalled that the Israeli economy grew at a rate at more than five percent from 2005 until last year’s global financial crisis and that it could reach six or seven percent if there were peace in the region.

He noted the economy’s success in overcoming several crises in the past four years, particularly the sudden incapacitation of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Second Lebanon War, the rise of Hamas and the financial crisis.