The long-standing dispute between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Arab people has dominated world headlines for a very long time. Israel was established in 1948 after being ruled by the British, with a trio of separate enclaves developed for the Palestinians. But both sides have been at war with each other practically ever since, with the Arab states surrounding Israel occasionally joining in. That piece of history is the subject of a one-day seminar at the University of Belize in Belmopan presented by Israel’s ambassador to Belize, His Excellency Mr. Shmulik Bass.
PLUS News spoke to him in Belize City and he tells us about the idea for the conference.
“This seminar, we talked about Israel and its connections to Belize and also Israel in the Middle East. What is the Middle East, what is Israel and its neighbours”.
And while Israel has fought consistently to keep its territory and culture intact as the sole Jewish state in the world, it believes itself to be increasingly under threat from Muslim extremists, particularly those based in Iran, which is believed to be pursuing the creation of nuclear weapons to blow Israel literally off the map. Ambassador Bass discusses this development.
H. E. Mr. Shmulik Bass: “To your question, Iran is the problem but not only to Israel. People think, Iran is enemy…no. The Prime Minister of Israel has said, we have allies in the Arab world who also fear the will of Iran to take control of the Middle East. Eventually, if you read them carefully, you will see that they want, through Islam, to control the world. It is not just words. You just have to read Q’uran and understand that this is their only ideology”.
Will there ever be peace in the Middle East? The key, says the ambassador, is to change minds.
H. E. Mr. Shmulik Bass: “Negotiation will be contacted well and reach a final stage of signing a final peace agreement like we have with the biggest Arab nation Egypt. From 1979, it’s more than 34 years and with Jordan…with the king of Jordan. We live peacefully with Lebanon which has a lot of problem, and now with Syria that is having an internal war, civil war we don’t have. And with the Palestinians, of them some still dream about a bigger Palestine with no Israel in it”.
We also queried with the Ambassador on the state of Israel’s relationship with Belize. The long-standing school of thought with regard to Israel is that it supports Guatemala’s claim to Belize, and recently Belize voted at the United Nations to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state. But for Ambassador Bass, all of that is water under the bridge, and Israel is ready to cultivate a real relationship.
H. E. Mr. Shmulik Bass: “I know people think that Israel is on the side of Guatemala. We would like to be on the side of everybody, not always it is possible within regional debates, but Israel is stretching its hands to all the countries; it is in our charter of independence. I would like to mention another fact that Israel was the first or one of the first to bring together a high level person and Guatemalan high level person. We had in 1984, a Guatemalan ambassador in Israel, and for the first time we had a visit of the Belizean foreign minister, and in Israel was the first bi-lateral meeting of both.
According to the Ambassador Israel continues to offer technical assistance both in the Middle East and in Belize for a minimal cost.
H. E. Mr. Shmulik Bass: “Israel would like to do a lot. Israel’s mission is to share its knowledge. Israel assists more than 130 countries; also countries that have developed like Korea or Cyprus. They are now on high level. It helps them, but they pay for these services. But for many other countries that are developing, we extend our know hows, knowledge or methodologies in various themes without charging the technical assistance. But the policy of Israel (not of the embassy of Israel) but the foreign ministry and the government is somehow to share it, not to give as a present 100%”.
Typically those flying to Israel for such courses, like one planned for a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, would only pay for airfare and be taken care of while in Israel. But is Israel doing this for support against Palestine? No, says the Ambassador, Israel wants the world to act justly.
“If Belize has its problems, and we know very well the problems of Belize, (each country has problems) and Belize wants to get out of these problems and chooses one way, it might not be favorable in our eyes, but it is the sovereignty of Belize to decide. We would like, first of all to have things in a just way, and I can debate anything that Israel does if it is just or not. Each state has its angle what it is just of course but I try to see the whole picture, not only the angle of Israel and I am open to debate any question”.
The presentation went concurrent with another presentation by Argentine Ambassador Maria Fernandez Canas on the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas conflict with Great Britain. Both presentations started at 2:00 p.m.