US Senator Coleman: 'If action is going to be taken, it's not going to be Israel alone'
Delegation of MKs led by Yuval Steinitz became first non-Americans allowed to see the new F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet.
If military action is undertaken against Iran, Israel won't be doing it alone, US Senator Norm Coleman told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
"If action is going to be taken, it's not going to be Israel alone," Coleman (R-Minnesota), the ranking member of the Senate foreign relation's Near East subcommittee. "The reality is that Israel would have to have approvals and authorities. If something is taken, the United States is going to be part of that. We have to understand that. There is no saying, 'Israel did it.'
Coleman, noting that he was speaking as one senator and not for the entire US government, talked to the Post after meeting with visiting Knesset members. He also said that while the delegation of MKs - which included Likud's Yuval Steinitz and Meretz's Yossi Beilin - presented a united front, no such unanimity could be found on the American side.
"I think there's a consensus here as to the nature of the threat. I don't think there's consensus yet as to the span of time with which we have to address it," said Coleman, one of only two Jewish Republican senators.
Steinitz said that a major focus of the visit of the MKs was to express the sense of urgency Israel feels about Iran. He proposed giving Iran an ultimatum to comply by UN demands or face military action.
"You have to choose a big enough stick and wave it wildly enough in order maybe not to use it," Steinitz said he told Cheney. "Sanctions won?t work unless Iran knows that force is realistic." He said afterwards that "my visit strengthened my impression that there is a reasonable assumption [among US officials] that there is a willingness to use force after an ultimatum."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also met with Cheney as part of a little more than days in Washington to press the issue of Iran, prepare for the upcoming international Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis, and to discuss collaboration on missile defense systems.
After his meeting, Barak said Israel had no plans to object to the upcoming sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. "We have understandings and arrangements that allow us to keep our quality advantage. We have no intention to oppose the deal," he said.
Barak also met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, members of Congress, and with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, where President Bush made a surprise appearance.
The delegation of Knesset members led by Steinitz became the first non-Americans allowed to see the production lines of the new F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet this week on a tour of the Lockheed Martin factory in Texas.
The F-22 is an air dominance fighter equipped for ground attack, electronic warfare and signals intelligence roles. The US Air Force claims that the F-22A cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter. Officials said the jet, which avoids radar detection, would be capable of flying from Israel to Teheran and dropping bombs undetected.
In June, Defense Ministry Diplomatic-Military Bureau head Amos Gilad and Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan, head of the IDF Planning Directorate, met with senior Pentagon officials in Washington and left the talks disappointed because their request to acquire the F-22 in order to retain its qualitative edge was turned down. It was not known Thursday whether Defense Minister Ehud Barak made another request in his meeting with Gates.
The Knesset delegation, which included Meretz MK Ran Cohen, Israel Beiteinu MK Israel Hasson and Kadima MK Avigdor Yitzhaki, received special security clearance to see the plane. The US-Israel Joint Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which is headed by Steinitz (Likud) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), meets biannually to discuss security and foreign policy issues.
Gil Hoffman contributed reporting from Jerusalem.