Kissinger: 'Not Optimistic' About Israeli-Palestinian Peace 'This Year or in Immediate Future'

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Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Pentagon after receiving an award honoring his diplomatic career, May 9, 2016.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Pentagon after receiving an award honoring his diplomatic career, May 9, 2016.Credit: Brendan Smialowski, AFP

Dr. Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state, says he is pessimistic about peace prospects in the Middle East and the overall future of the region.

A keynote speaker at the annual Herzliya conference on Wednesday, the 93-year-old statesman declined to address specific U.S. initiatives aimed at achieving a two-solution solution, but said: “I’m not optimistic that the outcome can be negotiated this year or in the immediate future.”

Kissinger, who was interviewed by Haaretz correspondent Ari Shavit, had been scheduled to appear in person at the conference, organized by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. Several days ago, however, he notified his hosts that he would not be able to make the trip to Israel, and his remarks were live-streamed. 

On the subject of a regional peace initiative or peace conference, Kissinger also expressed great skepticism, pointing to the fact that several Arab states – Syria, Libya and Iraq – were no longer functional and could not be relied upon to extend guarantees to a future peace agreement.  

“My view remains that we would be better off with significant interim agreements that show progress, at least as a first step, to an overall settlement,” he said, adding that “I have doubts about the composition of such a conference, its procedures and outcomes.”

On the one hand, Kissinger noted, Israel is in a stronger military and economic position today than it has been in many decades. On the other hand, he warned that the country is situated in “an extremely dangerous neighborhood” destined to experience “extreme upheavals” over the next few decades. 

While concerned that “Iran has not lost it capacity to develop nuclear weapons,” Kissinger said he was reassured that the United States, Israel and moderate Arab countries shared a common goal of  “preventing any country from achieving domination in the region, and especially developing a nuclear military capacity to carry out its objectives.” 

Asked whether Israel’s deep and longstanding alliance with the Western world was in jeopardy, Kissinger drew a distinction between the United States and Western Europe. Referring to Israel’s image in Western Europe, he said: “The long term attitude toward the Jewish State has become more ambiguous among the public there than it has been, although I would say not yet in America.” 

Kissinger urged Israelis to try to understand America’s wider interests in the Middle East that might conflict with their own. At the same time, he noted, Americans need to remember “that Israel is a very small nation with a very small population so that sacrifices that seem minor to Americans are proportionately huge for Israel.”

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