Question: Some U.S. commentators suggest Trump wasted an opportunity to leverage Israel and the Palestinians by moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
Dore Gold: Well, I think that’s a very narrow perspective on how diplomacy works. You know, we don’t have to pay for everything we do in negotiations and in international discourse. The fact of the matter is countries decide where their capital is. Russia at one point had its capital in St. Petersburg. Then it moved its capital to Moscow. We had a capital always in Jerusalem, and that’s a fact. Now, whether the United States puts its embassy in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem is a decision the United States can make. But as a matter of fact, Jerusalem is functioning already as a capital for many years. A new ambassador comes to Israel. Where does he present his credentials? In Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem? In Jerusalem. Where are all the offices of all the ministries located? In Jerusalem. It’s only a question of reality catching up rather than anything else.
Question: More on the issue of why Jerusalem should be Israel’s capital. According to same argument, many Russians trace their historic roots to Kiev, but Israel wouldn’t endorse Russia trying to take hold of that city.
Dore Gold: Well, you know, you have now a country called Ukraine, and it has a capital in Kiev. We’re not making recommendations that countries invade their neighbors and take over their capitals, so no. But Jerusalem has always been our capital, and the United Nations failed in trying to produce an international solution to Jerusalem back in 1947 and 1948. You might remember that in the first Arab-Israeli war we were invaded. Holy sites were destroyed. We had about 55 synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem that were either desecrated or were smashed, and we were in a very difficult situation then. Our entire Jewish community in the Old City, where we had had a majority since the mid-19th century, was ethnically cleansed. So who’s going to take care of Jerusalem? Us or Hamas? You have to make a decision, and it’s clear that we will protect the holy sites of all the great faiths: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Question: The Palestinians perceive the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem as a symbolic act and will no longer accept the United States as a mediator because it has shown that it has no intention of being a neutral party. What is the benefit of the Trump administration excluding itself from any potential talks between Israel and the Palestinians?
Dore Gold: I think that Israel benefits from the United States expressing a fair position. For too many years, our positions have been ignored in places like the United Nations, and there has been a discriminatory effort by many countries to move against the State of Israel, as I said before, completely without justification. So I think what President Trump has done is corrected a tremendous distortion that has existed in large parts of the international community. Now you know how this works? I was an ambassador of the United Nations for the State of Israel, and this was in the late 1990s. I saw that if, let’s say, Mr. Erekat and his Palestinian representative at the UN came up with an idea, they’d convene the Arab group of countries, the Arab bloc at the UN, and they’d automatically get 22 countries to go along with their initiative. Then that goes to the Islamic group, and you get attached to that also Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan. That moves up to the non-aligned movement – the NAM countries. That bloc goes up to 140 countries. So without even batting an eyelash, the Palestinians can recruit some 150 out of 190-plus countries at the UN. That is not because of the justice of their position. That isn’t because much of the world recognizes the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem. I think most people in the world recognize, frankly, the origins, the biblical origins of Israel. They recognize the fact that King David made this our capital, and therefore we believe that what President Trump did in recognizing Jerusalem as our capital, plus moving the U.S. embassy reflects, I think, what’s in the deep emotions of many peoples around the world.
Question: Is Israel changing from being a David to a Goliath?
Dore Gold: Israel does what’s necessary to protect itself, but Israel does what’s also necessary to minimize civilian casualties in any kind of attack. I was asked to debate the famous South African Judge Richard Goldstone, and we had a debate at Brandeis University, and when we did I very carefully looked at Israel’s military tactics in Gaza and how it goes about its military campaigns. I’ll tell you something what Israel does and I’m certain the Russian army doesn’t do this, and I’d be surprised if the American army does this. If we have information that somebody is storing Iranian missiles in a house in the Gaza Strip, and we’re in the middle of a of a full-scale conflict, and we have a legal right under international law to destroy that house because it has become a place where munitions are hidden, we have our intelligence branch with its Arabic-speaking officers call the house where those missiles are stored and we tell the owner of that house, “We know your house has Hamas munitions, has Iranian rockets, and we will destroy that house in about seven to ten minutes and you have to basically leave the house now.”
I just spent a week with a gentleman that you should actually have on your show. His name is Col. Richard Kemp. He was a commander of British forces in Afghanistan when the British were deployed there. He also fought in Northern Ireland, and he also fought in the Balkans. Kemp has said at the United Nations and in a variety of appearances, having analyzed what Israel is facing, the choices the Israeli army has to make, the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world. Now you can try and find some anti-Israel people on the BBC or on other networks who will say the exact opposite, but I when I get a British officer who has been in our positions, who has seen close up what’s going on and could examine the trade-offs, and he says we’re the most moral army in the world, I would accept that judgment.
Question: How do you feel about the Trump administration abandoning the JCPOA?
Dore Gold: Frankly, the JCPOA was one of the worst arms control agreements ever reached by the West with the Russians and the Chinese. It was a disaster, and I think the Iranian nuclear program is not just a problem for Israel. It’s not just a problem for the Americans. It’s a problem for the security of the Russian Federation as well.
Many people said, “The Iranians don’t want to develop nuclear weapons. That’s a Western myth because, you know why? Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa back a number a number of years ago saying that it’s a violation of Islamic law to develop nuclear weapons.” You know what? I hired a Persian-language team, and we went through Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website. There is no nuclear fatwa, and now what we’ve learned from materials that Israeli intelligence sources have taken out of Tehran is that there was a real nuclear weapons program. We even know something very specific. We know that there is an Iranian missile called the Shahab-3. We know from International Atomic Energy and from the documents that Israel retrieved out of Tehran that the Iranians had a program to take the conventional warhead out of the Shahab-3 that can reach Israel and put in a nuclear device. Now, what is that? That’s a program for peace? No. The Iranians were after nuclear weapons, and we have to be aware of that, and we have to have very firm measures put in place to inspect what the Iranians are up to on the ground.
Question: How will sanctions against Iran be enforced?
Dore Gold: I think one of the choices that everyone’s going to have to make in the future is whether the United States will use secondary sanctions against those who decide that they want to trade with Iran. You’re going to have countries facing a choice. They can do business with Iran. They can sell Volkswagens, or they can sell Renault cars to Iran, but then they can’t sell them to the United States, and I think the American market is preferable to the Iranian market for many European countries at least.
Question: It isn’t only about money. What about values?
Dore Gold: The most important value is the value of security. The Iranians, with Hizbullah, have been involved in repeated terror attacks inside Europe, in Berlin. I think if you go to the German court records in Berlin, you’ll find out a great deal about Iranian activity within Germany. I think if you look at who assassinated a former prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar of Iran, in Paris, it was, according to French sources, the Iranians. If you go to Argentinian courts and you look at who destroyed not only an Israeli embassy but also the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, killing dozens of people, it was Iran, and it was supported by the highest levels of the Iranian government. So we have that documented in official records in a variety of countries.