Photo by Tony Cece

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ambassador Aharoni Visits Regent

Ambassador Ido Aharoni.

November 11, 2013

Among ongoing chaos in the Middle East, Ambassador Ido Aharoni sees both challenges and opportunities for Israel today. Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, visited Regent University on Monday, Nov. 4, to meet with students, faculty and staff, members of the local Jewish community and representatives from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).
During a large group presentation to about 300 students and guests, Aharoni began his remarks with some observations about the "Arab Spring."

"In our culture, 'spring' stands for something very distinct and very clear, something that is seasonal," Aharoni explained. "Are we looking at something seasonal that will be over soon? Or, are we looking at the disintegration of countries in our region and the boundaries that were determined by two powers at the time—France and England?

"Spring also stands for something positive, that is about growth, renewal. I'm not sure we're looking at something that will have a positive outcome on people in the region," he added.

The ambassador addressed "lessons learned" from the Arab Spring, specifically as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He noted that the "linkage argument" has suffered a major blow as a result of recent events. The "linkage argument" says the root cause of Middle East instability is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Today is the 34th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, which had nothing to do the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, leading to the first Gulf War. That action had nothing to do with the Israel and Palestine," he said. "There are no fewer than 29 active tribal, religious and military conflicts in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of many conflicts. That's not to say it's not an important conflict to resolve—far from it—but it's much easier to deal with problems on the table if we're negotiating under the right atmosphere."

Aharoni also pointed out the difference between democratic elections and democracy as a value system using the example of Gaza elections in 2006, which led to a victory by the terrorist organization Hamas that now governs in an undemocratic fashion.

"The ability to conduct open, transparent elections is not the only expression of democracy," he said. "Democracy is about values and people's ability to live by those values."

On a positive note, Aharoni shared encouraging developments from Israel, including the ability to now negotiate with Palestinians "freely, professionally and discreetly"—a process he hopes will lead to more good news. He touted Israel's water self-sufficiency, which has been a priority issue since the nation's inception. Similarly, Israel has identified significant deposits of natural gas that may lead not only to Israel's energy-independence, but could also result in Israel exporting natural gas.

Aharoni also spoke passionately about creativity in Israel. He cited a book, The Rise of the Creative Class, which suggests that the presence of a "creative class"—the people who develop ideas that change the destiny of a society—is the one element that gives a society an edge.

"I'm happy to report, that according to any measurement, the creative class in Israel is perhaps the fastest-growing in the world," Aharoni said, listing top rankings for Israel, including the number of conceptual ideas produced, start-up companies, scientific papers, and three universities ranked among the top 100 in the world.

"Israel is only at the very beginning of introducing ideas that will impact positively everyone in the world," he said.
Besides this presentation, Aharoni met with Regent University leaders and faculty members from several schools. He also appeared on CBN's The 700 Club. His visit to Regent was part of the university's Ambassador Series, which brings international dignitaries to the university to interact with the campus community.

Since August 2010, Ambassador Aharoni has been the Consul General at the Consulate General of Israel in New York, serving the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He has been a member of Israel's Foreign Service since 1991. Aharoni has a bachelor's degree from Tel Aviv University with a joint-major in Film and Television, Sociology and Anthropology. He earned a master's degree in Mass Communications from Emerson College in Boston. Aharoni served in the Israel Defense Forces as a company commander in the infantry during the first Lebanon war. He retired from military reserves several years ago, at the age of 48, as a Major (Ret).

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