This weekend marked the start of AIPAC’s annual policy conference held in the US capital, with a former UK Prime Minister warning of the Iranian threat to the region at the opening session.
Tony Blair appeared at the opening session of the conference, whilst US Vice President Mike Pence, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, the first African leader to appear at the conference, all gave speeches on the first day.
Referring to the role of Iran in the region, Blair said: “If you had a benign regime in Iran, all of the problems of the Middle East would be easier to resolve. That’s the reality. We’ve got to push back hard where their power is being abused, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in the Gulf, in, for example, the work that they try and do with the Palestinians to pull Palestinian factions away from peace.”
Blair also related that when he visits Israel next week it will be his 178th visit since leaving office in his attempts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He stressed the importance of the regional approach to peace making by saying that his approach is built on a “fundamental belief that the key to transforming the Middle East, and therefore to a more peaceful world, is to have a relationship between Israelis and Arabs… in which Israel works closely with Arab states, and in which two states for two peoples can be pursued in a way that guarantees Israel’s security”.
Addressing the conference as this year’s keynote speaker, Vice President Pence revived talk of the possibility of the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
He said: “After decades of simply talking about it, the president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
Israeli Ambassador Dermer also warned about the role of Iran in the region after the nuclear deal and the opening of the shared Israel-US agenda.
Dermer said: “We both recognise that the nuclear deal does not block Iran’s path to a bomb and that Iran’s appetite for aggression and terror has only grown since that deal was signed and since sanctions were removed.”
Also in DC, Jason Greenblatt, the US special representative for international negotiations, continued meeting prominent Israel figures.
He hosted a Friday night dinner at his home for Tzipi Livni from the Zionist Union. Yesterday he met Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and discussed Israel-US cooperation, the economic situation of the Palestinians and other regional issues. Both Livni and Naftali are due to speak at AIPAC this week.