Now is the time to strengthen the sanctions against Iran, and not to be fooled –
at the precise moment when they appear to have impacted Tehran – into weakening
them, said Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud).
thing would be to stop the sanctions. Our goal is convincing the world that now
is the time to continue and not to weaken the sanctions,” Erdan said.
spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, in advance of his departure Saturday
night for the United States with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
prime minister and his delegation fly to New York and Washington to warn against
the increased danger of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Netanyahu will speak of
this threat when he meets with US President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday
and when he addresses the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
Israeli delegation arrives in the US at a time when Obama has softened his
stance against Iran in response to Tehran’s newly conciliatory tone, which has
renewed belief in Washington that a diplomatic solution is possible.
Thursday in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was set to
hold an unusual meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as
diplomats from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany at a session aimed at
jump-starting efforts to resolve a decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear
Israel is not opposed to diplomacy, said Erdan, who is the only
minister traveling with Netanyahu and who – along with Defense Minister Moshe
Ya’alon – is one of the only two Likud ministers in the security
But Israel is concerned that as a result of renewed dialogue
with Tehran, the US and the international community would agree to weaken and/or
remove some sanctions against them.
Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani
was elected on the strength of promises he made to improve the economic
situation in his country, a pledge he can only keep if sanctions are repealed,
Erdan said, arguing that Rouhani has softened his stance against the West
precisely for that reason.
Erdan warned that the new Iranian president
wants to lull the West into believing that negotiations can eliminate the threat
of his country’s nuclear weapons program – even as Iran continues to build such
It is expected that in Netanyahu’s speech to the UN, he will
compare Tehran’s strategy toward the West with that of North Korea, which
engaged in diplomacy until it had nuclear weapons.
The problem is that
Iran’s nuclear program is hidden, Erdan said. “People can’t see the centrifuges
spinning or the plutonium core power plant.
“What they see or what they
hear is only the new president Rouhani and the nice words he is saying, talking
about peace. He does not shout. He speaks quietly, calmly. That is what the
world sees and hears,” Erdan said.
“I pray that I’m mistaken,” Erdan
continued, but “what we see since he was elected is not only that nothing
stopped, but exactly the opposite: They got better centrifuges that work
“The fact that Rouhani didn’t even shake Obama’s hand proves that
nothing has changed. The guy who decides everything is [Iran’s supreme leader
Ayatollah] Khamenei, and he [Rouhani] is the pretty face that Iran is
Erdan said that Rouhani’s speech to the UN was hypocritical,
talking about human rights and denouncing terrorists while his country is
helping Syrian President Bashar Assad in his attacks against civilians.
few days before heading to the United Nations General Assembly, Rouhani
participated in a military march in which missiles on trucks bore words about
destroying Israel, Erdan said.
In their discussions with US and
international diplomats, Erdan and Netanyahu plan to explain that Iran must meet
four conditions before sanctions are eased. These including halting uranium
enrichment and removing that material from its country.
Iran must also
dismantle its nuclear facility in Qum and stop building a nuclear reactor at
“Until the four conditions are met exactly, everyone should exert
pressure on Iran and not do the opposite,” Erdan said.
He noted that
under the tenure of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad it was easier to
explain the threat Iran posed, particularly when he spoke against Western values
or threatened to wipe Israel off the map.
But he said it is important
that their message is heard, because a nuclear Iran is not just a threat to
Israel, but to the world.
While in New York, Erdan will meet separately
with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to strengthen its ties
with Israel and to learn from it how better to prepare for disasters such as
earthquakes and fires.