The setting for these remarks was the Herzliya National Security Conference, in early February. They are reported in Defense News, Feb. 14, 2011, pp. 1 and 8.
Retired U.S. Marine Gen. James Jones, who up until last October served as Obama’s national security adviser, dismissed claims of Washington’s decline.
“I reject the idea that the United States is in decline or even in relative decline,” Jones told conference participants here. “To be sure, there is much to be done to ensure we are as successful in the 21st century as we were in the 20th ... and Egypt is just a small sign of the potential for change.” Alongside efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and to fortify a coalition of the moderates comprised of pro-Western Arab states respectful of the universal rights of its people, Jones cited the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as “a matter of urgent necessity.” Jones said the lack of a peace deal jeopardizes regional stability by undermining moderates, provoking the young and hopeless classes, and empowering Iran.
Time is not on Israel’s side, Jones warned: “The growing isolation of Israel is a very real concern. The number of countries that recognize a Palestinian state can outrank the number of countries that recognize Israel.” Jones urged Israel’s leaders to restart peace negotiations.
“Failure to act could ignite a repetition of Egypt on streets in neighboring countries,” he said. “Will extremists win the hearts and minds of the young Arab street? Or will moderate voices prevail for a twostate solution? This could be the most important national security question of our time, and if we fail, history will not forgive us.” Amos Gilead, director for political-military affairs at Israel’s Ministry of Defense, was brutally direct in rejecting Jones’ premise.
“Even if we sign an agreement tomorrow with the [Palestinian Authority], they won’t honor it,” Gilead said. “Look around the Middle East: If there is a democratic process here, it will bring, for sure, hell.” In tactless and borderline racist remarks here, Gilead insisted that democracy and stability cannot coexist in the Arab Middle East.
“In the Middle East and the Arab world, there is no place for democracy,” he said.
Gilead said free elections in the region would breed either a Gazalike “Hamastan,” or Lebanon, which he described as a so-called democracy.
“In Lebanon, there is a constitution without a state. They have an elected president, prime minister, speaker, but the country is losing itself when it allows entities more powerful than Lebanon to drive the agenda,” Gilead said, alluding to Hezbollah.
“The only place in the region with a real chance of democracy is Iran,” a non-Arab nation, he said. “But what was the reaction to Iranian democratic forces? Indifference. And so dissenters in Iran got the message and we lost the opportunity to change Iran.”