New opposition leader Shaul Mofaz issued rare criticism of US President Barack
Obama in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that will be published in
Thursday’s Passover edition.
Mofaz has been one of the most positive
voices among Israeli politicians about Obama, with whom he is seeking a meeting
to boost his prime ministerial credentials. He has repeatedly defended
Obama’s policies, especially on the Palestinian issue.
But Mofaz said he
did not endorse Obama’s idea to permit Iran to have a civilian nuclear program
as long as it did not become a military program. Obama reportedly sent a
secret message to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressing a
willingness to accept a civilian program if Iran could prove it would not pursue
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote that
Obama had sent Khamenei the message via Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, who was was in Iran last week.
“It would be too hard to monitor
[a civilian program],” Mofaz said. “Iran has military ambitions and abilities,
so we cannot close our eyes. Allowing Iran to obtain even a civilian nuclear
capability would change the balance of power in the Middle East. America
realizes why Israel cannot accept this.”
Mofaz said he believed the Obama
administration was committed to stopping the Iranian nuclear program. Calling
for an intensification of Americanled sanctions against Iran, he said the
military option was the last option but that Israel must be ready for
“If we see Iran getting closer to a military nuclear capability and
the US acting against its own interest and allowing a sword on our neck, I will
be the first to support Israel taking action,” he said. “On this there would be
no coalition and opposition. But the sword is not there yet.”
outlined his diplomatic plan, which calls for a two-stage withdrawal from 60
percent of the West Bank and then from 100% via land swaps. He said the dramatic
changes taking place in the Middle East required Israel to expedite rather than
delay diplomatic efforts.
“The biggest danger for Israel is not the
Iranian threat but Israel becoming a bi-national state,” he said. “Losing the
Jewish majority endangers Israel more than anything. I will not let it happen.”
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