Akiva Tor spoke in San Francisco Monday, May 6, 2012.
On Monday, Akiva Tor, Israeli consul general of the Pacific Northwest, shed more light on the bitterness Israel feels towards the Arab Spring in a lecture at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Although the event was supposed to focus on the implications of political shifts in the region for Israel, Tor used the event to scapegoat the Palestinians for the stagnant peace process while all the audience wanted to talk about was Iran.
Beginning with Egypt, Tor decried the landslide of votes casted for the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood, stating, "Political Islam won the elections." Continuing, "even when this earthquake will cease its tremor," relations with Israel will not likely improve. And while the former Mubarak regime was Israel's insurance for "peace with the Egyptian government for more than 30 years," the new leadership evoked apprehension for the diplomat. Tor then expressed concerns over the government not honoring treaties previously made with Israel because of their "religio-historical" worldview. Israel, by comparison he said, has a "secular historical" outlook.
Also relating to the Muslim Brotherhood, Tor stated Egypt would no longer act as an arbitrator between Hamas and Fatah, determining this will usher in the end of the possibility for Palestinian self-determination. "The opportunity for a peace process agreement has receded," said Tor, elaborating, while "both Israel and the Palestinian Authority [PA] believe that the correct way to establish peace between us is the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel," without an external push for unity, he explained, the peace process is over. Then again, Tor emphasized the moment for a Palestinian state has "receded." Yet, he applauded the PA's Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad for "incredible work to decrease corruption."
Moving on to the settlements Tor said, "Israel has not allowed new settlements in over a decade" stating they do "not at all" hinder peace with the Palestinians. Of course, during the past ten years there has been unprecedented settlement growth in the West Bank, however, exclusively from illegal construction. Even still, within the past two weeks Israel motioned to retroactively legalize Bruchim, Sansana, and Recheilim, violating the status quo settlement freeze, along with the 1965 Planning and Building Act, which forbids retroactively legalizing communities.
During the Q & A the audience was largely uninterested in discussing settlements, Palestinians, or the lecture's topic (the Arab Spring). Rather, Iran was the centerpiece. (Incidentally the only question on the Palestinians was from me. And when my comment card on the hunger strikers was read, the moderators voice was accompanied by a low, audible hiss from the attendees who averaged as white, affluent and 40 years my senior.) Four questions in a row noted fears of an Iranian nuclear program and displayed a disdain for diplomatic efforts. Tor addressed their concerns and advocated to prevent the Iranian "worldwide" threat by using "deeper and more stringent sanctions" supported by a consumer protest; effectively he endorsed a movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Iran.
After the lecture, I asked Tor if the three legalized outpost violate the freeze? He said no, elaborating that they were "not illegal" to begin with. (This is false.) I then asked if that meant Israel viewed the outposts as already legal? Tor did not answer directly and reiterated that the settlements were "not illegal," when they were established, though he did agree that their permits were changed. Tor then amicably handed me his card and offered to email me a position paper on this issue from the Israeli government.