A senior government official on Saturday characterized as “strange” a recent
statement by US military chief Gen. Martin Dempsey that he would not want to be
“complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran.
“Dempsey’s comments are strange
in that they would seem to contradict the continual statements from the White
House that the security and defense cooperation between Israel and the US has
never been as close,” the senior official said.
Dempsey, the chairman of
the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted last week as saying again that an
Israeli attack could delay, but not halt, Iran’s nuclear program.
don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it,” Dempsey
“These comments are also a bit strange, because they were said in a
week when the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] released a report that
seemed to confirm all of Israel’s concerns, and during a week where the
international effort to isolate Iran and subject it to international pressure
took a severe blow with the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Tehran,” the
senior government official said.
Despite disagreements, Intelligence
Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said on Saturday that both the US and Israel
agreed that if Iran made the political decision to put together a nuclear bomb,
it would still take 18 months to two years for it to be able to assemble
Meridor, speaking on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program, said the
level of intelligence sharing between the US and Israel was unprecedented, and
that there was no disagreement with the assessment that Iran was not on the
immediate verge of being able to put together a bomb, even if it made the
decision to do so.
But, he added, Tehran had not given up its efforts,
and was continuing to flout its commitment to the IAEA and the UN.
the disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington over whether Iran needed to
be stopped before it had acquired all components for a bomb (Israel’s position),
or only once it started putting the bomb together, Meridor said US President
Barack Obama’s statement that he was committed to preventing Iran from getting a
bomb, and would not be satisfied by containment of a nuclear Iran, needed to be
When told by his interviewer that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu was not sure whether Obama would deter Iran, Meridor replied,
“No one is certain of anything.
But [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali] Khamenei is not sure they will not do it. If I was Khamenei I would be
worried after a declaration like that.”
Meridor said the reason the
Iranians had not “broken out” yet was “because they are afraid of the
international campaign... They are afraid of what could be a grave response from
the world. Sanctions, war or other things.”
Meridor denied a Yediot
Aharonot story on Friday that Netanyahu got into a diplomatic shouting match
with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro over Obama’s handling of the nuclear crisis.
According to the report, Netanyahu said, “Time has run out” for diplomacy, and
that instead of effectively pressuring Iran, Obama was pressuring Israel not to
attack its nuclear facilities.
According to the report, the exchange took
place a week ago Friday during a meeting with visiting Republican Congressman
Mike Rogers. Yediot reported that at a certain point, as “sparks flew” in the
room, Shapiro responded politely but firmly that Netanyahu was distorting
“I heard from the Prime Minister’s Office that there
was nothing to this report,” Meridor said. “That it was not
Neither senior sources contacted in the Prime Minister’s Office
nor at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv would comment on the story.
spokesman Jay Carney – responding to comments made by US presidential candidate
Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention in Florida on Thursday evening
about Obama’s ineffectiveness in dealing with Iran – said that under Obama,
“cooperation with Israel between our military and intelligence communities has
never been closer, assistance provided to Israel by the United States has never
Meanwhile, two Israeli politicians weighed in on the Iran
debate on Saturday. Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid came out against a
military strike on Iran, at least in the near future, and former minister and
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi said the
threat of an Israeli attack was real.
“It’s true that when the moment of
‘bomb or be bombed’ arrives, Israel will have to act,” Lapid said at a cultural
event in Holon. “But we are far from that. Such is the assessment from the
Israeli professionals and from the Americans. Acting before you have to is
Hanegbi, speaking in Kiryat Motzkin, said the American
threat of military action was the most credible. At the same time, he said, “the
American threat is one that is abstract, and it doesn’t necessarily translate to
any promise for concrete action, and that might be why the Iranians are
disdaining and ignoring it.”
Hanegbi continued: “In my opinion, the
Israeli military threat is not an empty one.”
In a related development,
UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon defended on Friday his visit to Iran last
week, saying he used it to push hard for human rights and transparency from
Tehran over its nuclear program.
Netanyahu had lobbied hard against the
visit, saying Ban’s going to Tehran would give legitimacy to Iran and be a stain
both on him and on the UN.
But Ban, speaking in Dubai before flying back
to UN headquarters in New York, said, “I believe in the power of diplomacy and I
believe in dialogues and I believe in engagement.
This is exactly what I
did during my visit to Tehran.”
While conceding he was not always
satisfied with the responses of Iranian leaders he spoke to last week, he
rejected the argument that he played into Tehran’s hands by attending the summit
Iran used to raise its diplomatic profile.
“I think that it should not
have been controversial,” he said. “As a secretary-general of the United
Nations, I have a mandate to engage with all the member states of the United
Before the summit, Washington made clear it wanted Ban to
boycott the event. “Iran is going to manipulate this opportunity and the
attendees to try to deflect attention from its own failings,” a State Department
Ban appeared to go out of his way in Tehran to avoid
being seen as endorsing Iranian policies. On Thursday, he discomfited his hosts
by publicly denouncing as “outrageous” Iranian threats against Israel and claims
that the Holocaust never took place.
In public comments later, Ban urged
the Iranian leadership to release opposition leaders and political activists to
create the conditions for free expression and open debate.
criticism possibly had little effect on public opinion within the country. Local
media reported his comments selectively, focusing on references to Iran’s
importance in the world and generally omitting critical remarks.
on Friday that he also used meetings with Khamenei and President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad to push for change in the country: “I made a very strong push on the
nuclear issues and when it came to human rights issues, again I made it quite
clear,” he said.
Ban said he told Iranian leaders that they had a
responsibility to do more to assure the world that their nuclear program was for
solely peaceful purposes. The leaders’ responses were not always satisfactory,
“In some questions they were trying to explain their positions,
particularly when it comes to nuclear issues,” he said. “They were not giving me
any concrete answers.”
Jerusalem Post Staff and Reuters contributed to