The exact date when Iran will acquire nuclear weapons is “a moving target,” and “all we know is that this year they will not have a nuclear weapon,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Sunday.
Ayalon, speaking to The Jerusalem Post’s editorial staff, was the latest to weigh in on the Iranian timeline.
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Earlier this month, former Mossad head Meir Dagan said that if the world sat on its hands until then, Iran would not acquire nuclear capabilities until the “middle of the decade.” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, seemingly unhappy that Dagan had created the perception that the world had more time to stop the Iranian nuclear march, distanced himself from those comments last week, saying they were only “intelligence estimates.”
Ayalon said he did not want to talk about 2014 or 2015, but “all we know is that this year they will not have a nuclear weapon. However, in order to ensure that they will not have the weapons in 2014 or 2015, we must not let up. We must continue and not stop the momentum. There is a momentum where the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Iranian government, is now in the crosshairs of the international community.”
Asked whether Dagan’s statement was not detrimental in that it took the air out of that momentum, Ayalon replied, “We are not dealing with wishful thinking or fantasy; we are dealing here with realities, and they are as described. However, to the extent that this may persuade anyone in the international community to let up, that would not serve the purpose. That would be wrong and counterproductive. But I’m not sure that is the case.”
Regarding Israel’s relations with Turkey, Ayalon said the Mavi Marmara
incident has “certainly” had a deterrent effect on others who might have been interested in sending additional flotillas to Gaza.
Ayalon’s comments came as the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry were gearing up for the interim findings of the Turkel committee looking into the incident, which are expected to be presented this week.
“I’m not sure there is much enthusiasm now among any organizers for such flotillas, whether it is in Turkey or anywhere else,” he said. Ayalon dismissed as “psychological warfare” threats to send other boats, including perhaps even the Mavi Marmara
itself, to Gaza again, saying that in “real terms,” there is no eagerness to launch another such “provocation.”
Ayalon dismissed the notion that had another government been in power, with another foreign minister, ties with Turkey would have been repaired by now.
“The relations with Turkey deteriorated before we took office, when Tzipi Livni was the foreign minister,” he said. “This was the time when [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, in such a flagrant way, humiliated our president at Davos.”
He said that Turkey’s inflammatory rhetoric during Operation Cast Lead, aimed at the government of Ehud Olmert and Livni, “was a real deviation from the past relations with the Turks. I don’t think in any way the change of government here had any impact.” Ayalon said Turkey was undergoing a fundamental change in its foreign policy “irrespective of who the government is here, or in Washington, or anywhere else.”
Turning to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, Ayalon took issue with the characterization that Latin America was a “lost continent,” in light of the willingness of a handful of countries there in recent weeks to recognize a Palestinian state.
Ayalon blamed the Palestinians, and not the Latin American countries themselves, for what he described as “setbacks,” saying the PA “put enormous pressure on the Latin American countries” to recognize Palestinian statehood, “including the local Palestinian communities.” He said these Palestinian efforts demonstrated a lack of good faith. “This shows that the Palestinians are not ready, that this leadership of the Palestinians is not ready, for the difficult decisions, the historic decisions, in order to bring peace.”
The deputy foreign minister said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could still “correct his ways and come to the table, but as more time lapses, this may show that maybe he is not serious, maybe he is not the partner we are all looking for.” Ayalon said that if Abbas and the PA leadership were not capable of reaching a finalstatus agreement, then the goal should be an interim agreement, a “Plan B.” He said that the situation was not “black or white,” and that if it were not possible to reach a “perfect” solution, then the aim should be to try for a “good” one. The Palestinians, he said, were trying to make it an “all or nothing” proposal.
Israel, he said, “will not negotiate with a gun against its head” and succumb to threats of another intifada, the PA dissolving itself, or taking the issue to the UN.
Regarding Gaza, Ayalon said both he and Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman will push for the Europeans to put together a robust force to
patrol the Egypt-Gaza border and stamp out arms smuggling, something
that Lieberman has said would allow Israel to lift the blockade of the
Ayalon said this call was “a challenge to the Europeans” and a way to
get them “thinking about what we face here.” The Europeans are
consistently asking Israel to open up Gaza to free access of goods and
“It is very easy from a place in Oslo or an office in Stockholm to say
[the blockade is] inhumane, that it is collective punishment,” he said,
“but it is not their lives at stake. It is ours.”