Defense Minister Ehud Barak acknowledged publicly on Thursday that Israel and
the US have different clocks when looking at Iran, with Washington able –
because of its greater military capabilities – to wait longer to strike the
country than Israel.
The way to bridge this gap, he said in an interview
with Israel Radio, is to speed up the sanctions, “set a bar” and create a short
timeline for the talks between Iran and European powers that are to begin next
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made clear in Ottawa earlier
this month that Israel’s expectation was that at the end of any talks, Iran
would dismantle its nuclear facility at Qom, stop enriching uranium and remove
all uranium enriched beyond 3.5 percent from the country.
Barak, Jerusalem and Washington agree fully on the intelligence information on
Iran. Likewise, the rhetoric is also similar, with leaders from both countries
saying that they were determined to keep Iran from “going nuclear,” and that it
was forbidden to take any option off the table.
“There is a difference in
perspective,” he said. “The US is looking at this as the leader of the world,
and Israel is looking at it as someone threatened from up close.”
said the difference between the US and Israel was the timeline perspective,
“because America has more capabilities than Israel. As a result, it is possible
to think of a situation where Israel will be limited in its ability to deal with
the issue, and the US can say there are still long months [available] to deal
with the issue without risking an allout war.”
Setting a deadline for the
talks, Barak said, would make it possible to determine Iranian intent before
Israel would find itself pushed to the side and unable to stop the Iranian
The defense minister dismissed the notion that he was
now against Israel acting alone without US involvement, as opposed to Netanyahu,
who holds a different position.
“There is no difference between us on how
we see things,” Barak said. “Obviously there are differences on one detail or
the other, but all in all we view the whole matter in the same way.”
said the reason Iran had not completely burned its bridges with the
International Atomic Energy Agency was the concern that doing so could lead to
action by the US, “or somebody else,” against it. In the interim, he said, the
Iranians were spreading the nuclear program out across the country and
fortifying it underground – so that by the time all negotiations and discussions
have ended, it will be too late for Israel to take any effective action against
Meanwhile, South African Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said
Pretoria had suspended almost all of its oil imports from Iran and intended to
abide by a US request to make significant cuts in its Iranian
“[To my knowledge], no Iranian oil is flowing into our
country,” Ebrahim told a news conference. “If there is any, it is very
South Africa is on a US State Department list of 12 countries
that buy Iranian oil and could have been subject to American sanctions had it
not significantly cut purchases.
Iran is South Africa’s leading crude
supplier, accounting for about 29% of oil imports to Africa’s biggest economy,
according to the US Energy Information Administration.
spokesman Jimmy Manyi said South Africa had not decided what to do about the US
“There’s no decision made one way or the other, but the cabinet
is deliberating on Iran,” he told a news conference.
energy minister said last week she hoped to have a plan by the end of May for
replacing supplies from Iran.
Ebrahim said he did not agree with the US
move to impose sanctions on countries that purchased Iranian oil. But he said
Pretoria was forced to abide by it due to the economic hit South Africa would
take if it did not comply.
“We don’t have any choice in the matter,” he
said. As a sovereign country, South Africa should be able to buy oil from
wherever it wants, Ebrahim said.
Reuters contributed to this report.