Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that extending the six-power talks with Tehran beyond the July 20 deadline would allow Iran to cement its position as a threshold nuclear state.
“They think they will obtain the nuclear options by manipulating the West with smiles,” said Ya’alon as he called for increased economic sanctions against Iran.
He and a number of high-level Israeli diplomats and politicians have increasingly focused on the danger of Iran as a threshold nuclear state.
Israelis fear that world powers will be satisfied if Iran’s nuclear program is frozen but not eliminated. In this threshold situation Iran could quickly develop nuclear weapons if it wanted to.
The only way to prevent this is to increase economic pressure against it, said Ya’alon on Tuesday as he spoke to the 2014 Herzliya Conference.
Although stiff economic sanctions against Iran exist, some of the measures have been softened as a result of the talks.
Iran wants to extend the talks to gain time to rehabilitate its economy while still maintaining nuclear capacity, Ya’alon warned.
The issue here is not just Iran’s nuclear capacity but its global and regional involvement in terror activity, Ya’alon said.
“The subject of the terror they exert cannot be taken off the table,” he said. Iran is the “No. 1 threat” and its fingerprints can be seen on the violence and conflicts in countries such as Iraq and Syria as well as along Israel’s borders from Gaza to the Golan Heights.
Iran has had consultants and combatants in Syria, for example, he said.
“There is no conflict that the Iranians are not involved in,” Ya’alon said.
Iran’s conflict with Israel is existential, not territorial. The missiles that they are developing threaten Israel and will eventually threaten the United States, Ya’alon said.
Moving on to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ya’alon said that the conflict appeared to be about territory, but in actuality it was about the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as the Jewish homeland.
The accusation that Israel is an “apartheid state” is rubbish, he said.
Initially, he said, over two decades ago, he supported the peace process that was set out under the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which land would be traded for peace.
“I trusted and believed in Oslo and I sanctified people’s lives over the value of land,” Ya’alon said.
“It was a mistake,” he added, that led to over a 1,000 fatalities in suicide bombs and to a continued barrage of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel.
The US-led nine-month peace process that ended in April failed for three reasons.
The Palestinians refused to end the conflict, they refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and they would not give up on the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Oslo gave them political independence and they chose to unite with Hamas, which is a terrorist group, Ya’alon said.
Ya’alon stated that the Fatah-Hamas unity government would not contribute to the cause of peace as some have suggested. He said that there is “zero percent chance that Hamas will accept the quartet conditions” and recognize Israel.
He warned that the unity government that was sworn in last week strengthens Hamas in Judea and Samaria and increases the possibility that it would control Palestinian areas in the West Bank.
“The Palestinian Authority is not taking over the Gaza Strip. Hamas is taking over Judea and Samaria,” Ya’alon said.