Israeli political, environmental experts visit Denver to talk about importance of US engagement

Prime Minister to meet with President on Monday

DENVER - A group of political, environmental and business experts from Israel are visiting five western U.S. cities a week prior to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Washington D.C. to meet with President Barack Obama.

Denver was one of their stops.

Dr. Eytan Gilboa, Chair and Academic Director of the Israel Public Diplomacy Forum, says their goal it get people to understand developments in the Middle East and how important it is for the U.S. to be engaged.

“There is so much violence, killing, murdering and extremism in the Middle East,” he said. “If it is not stopped there, it will come to the doorsteps of the Western World.”

Gilboa told Denver 7 that the main target of the Jihadists is not the Middle East, it’s the U.S.

“They feel the American way of life threatens their existence,” he said.

When asked how, he replied, “One example is women’s rights. Many of those Islamic extreme movements don’t think that women should have any rights.  They should not work.  They should not reveal themselves.  They should not be free to move around and do whatever they want.”

Giboa said he believes the U.S. should restore the traditional alliance of pro American Arab states, Israel and moderate Muslim organizations “to defeat the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.”

He said Russia and Iran are trying to build a strategic axis from Tehran to Beirut, where Hezbollah controls Lebanon.

“I consider the threat of that axis as dangerous as the threat of the Islamic state,” he said. “Iran wants to overthrow American and pro-western regimes and wants to eliminate Israel… because it considers Israel an obstacle in its path toward domination and hegemony.”

When asked why Russia is so supportive of the current Syrian regime, Gilboa said it’s because Vladimir Putin wants access to a naval port on the Mediterranean, so Russia can counter NATO.

He said it’s possible that the Russian jetliner that crashed on the Sinai Peninsula Saturday was bombed, and that other jetliners could be targeted.

“I think those who are responsible for protecting civil aviation have to worry more than than they did in the period immediately after 9/11,” he said.

Dr. Ely Karmon, of the International Institute for Counter Terrorism, told Denver 7 that there has been a change in U.S. strategy in that region over the last 3 or 4 years.

“Sometimes, I would even say it's zig zagging,” he said, “even in disarray.”

He said several countries see the influence of the U.S. diminishing and Russia’s increasing.  He said that’s not a good sign.

“For example,” Karmon said, “the Egyptians are going to buy weapons from Russia.  We even see the Saudis looking to China to buy weapons.  And this means the U.S. is probably losing ground in the region.”

Both men said Netanyahu’s trip to Washington will be a golden opportunity to repair damage to relations that have frayed over the last two years.

“At the personal level (Obama-Netanyahu) I don’t think there is any chance for reconciliation because of the poison that went into the relationship,” Gilboa said, “but the two leaders will discuss and will try to reach agreement on issues having to do with Iran, their violence and sponsorship of  terrorism, and what to do if Iran violates the nuclear agreement.

He said the both countries will talk about what kind of military compensation Israel will get to strengthen it's ability to withstand Iranian manipulation.

He said the President and Prime Minister will also discuss Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“The U.S. will look at whether the time is right for another major peace initiative,” Gilboa said. “And the U.S. and Israel will discuss Russian intervention.

“Both will have to come up with strategies to deal with it,” he said.

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