Israel has been quietly active over a long period in preventing Tehran from achieving its nuclear aims, former prime minister Ehud Olmert revealed recently to The Jerusalem Post in an interview ahead of next weekend’s second annual Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City.
“We did many things quietly over a long period of time that certainly helped prevent the Iranians from achieving this capacity long ago, but the effort must be led with the United States and the international community,” said Olmert, who will be the keynote speaker at the conference on April 28, as he was at the inaugural conference last year.
“I think it can be done, I think it ought to be done, and I think we must not forget that, with all due respect to our enormous military power, acting together with America and the Europeans and others will make it much easier for us to contribute to the end of this effort made by Iran, and this is the way we have to choose,” he said.
Last year’s conference, titled like this year’s – “Fighting for the Zionist Dream” – created enormous media interest as it was attended by some 1,000 people, including news teams from across the United States and Israel.
The conference created headlines in Israel when former Mossad director Meir Dagan exchanged barbs with then environment minister Gilad Erdan over critical comments made by former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak.
Olmert also appeared on TV news reports around the world.
Both the former prime minister and Dagan will return to the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, where they will join a lineup of top-tiered Israeli leaders and leading figures in the Jewish world.
Dagan, who underwent a liver transplant in Belarus last year, will be making his first public appearance since the operation at the conference.
Joining them will be Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz, Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, former IDF Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin and Jerusalem Post Senior Contributing Editor Caroline B. Glick.
The daylong event will be moderated again this year by Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde.
Three panel discussions will take place in the afternoon – on the two-state solution, the strategic threats facing the Jewish state, and Israel’s energy potential.
Steinitz, in an interview with the Post, said that although he is convinced President Barack Obama will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons, there has to be an adjustment of the “red line” set by the US.
“We believe it’s high time to stop them – before they get close to military nuclear capacity – in the enrichment phase,” Steinitz said. “It’s easier to detect and supervise a nuclear program during that phase, which requires large facilities.
Once they have enough uranium, the final phase of mechanizing can be done in a tiny room, and it’s difficult to detect.
“That’s why the red line must be earlier. Netanyahu was clever when he made it crystal clear to the international community where the red line should be. I was glad to see that even The Washington Post admits now that Netanyahu did the right thing and that his UN speech [last September] was meaningful and significant.
“The sanctions are important to show the Iranians the price of this misbehavior, but they are not sufficient. The Iranians are paying a severe price: $80 billion in revenues. But they believe that it is worth it to get nuclear weapons,” Steinitz said.
Oren told the Post that relations between the US and Israel have never been stronger, and pointed to Obama’s recent visit to Israel as evidence of this.
“A lot had changed in the region since President Obama was here last as a senator [in 2008], but what he saw, again, is that Israel is a stable, reliable, strong ally and friend to the United States. And that will not change,” said Oren. “Furthermore, the president reaffirmed during his visit, publicly and unequivocally, the legitimacy of the Zionist narrative and the Jewish people’s connection and right to self-determination in their historical homeland. His visit underscored that there is only one country in the Middle East that has never known a day of non-democratic rule and is unabashedly pro-American.”
The future of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be the subject of the first panel discussion next weekend – Two states for two peoples. Moderated by Editor-in-Chief Linde, it will feature panelists Shalom, Steinitz, security expert Uzi Arad, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Glick.
The second panel discussion, dubbed “The Generals Forum,” is titled How will Israel answer threats from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza? Moderated by Post military correspondent Yaakov Katz, currently on sabbatical at Harvard, it will feature former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Dagan, Yadlin, Arad and former US Marine Corps Gen. (ret.) Robert Magnus.
The conference’s closing panel discussion – Israel’s Energy Potential – will be moderated by Efraim Chalamish and include panelists Shalom, Steinitz, Ashkenazi, Dagan, Yossi Abu and Binyamin Zomer.
Rona Ramon, the widow of Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon, will receive an award of honor at the conference, along with Efi Stenzler, chairman of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund.
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