ben eliezer at post 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In the first Israeli response to North Korea's belligerent test-launching of missiles over the weekend, Industry Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Saturday he was "very troubled by the American reaction to North Korea's actions," adding he was "not at all calm regarding the American appeasement towards Iran."
Ben-Eliezer was speaking in a casual cultural event in Ramat Gan and his statements did not constitute the official position of the government.
"As far as I'm concerned, the estimates regarding the date that Iran will have nuclear weapons do not matter. For me, an Iranian nuclear bomb is a fait accompli but the world continues to play a double game with Iran, with statements and UN resolutions by day and more than 1,000 European companies still trading with Iran by night. [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad sees through the West's weakness and giggles when he knows everyone needs Iranian oil and money," Ben-Eliezer said.
Tying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Iran, Ben-Eliezer said that the Iranian nuclear threat had created a shared interest between Israel, the United States and the moderate states of the Arab world. "Stopping Iran's nuclearization," he said, "is a main issue for us, the Americans and the moderate Arab world. We must take this opportunity and lead towards separation from the Palestinians and immediate resumption of negotiations. We must move towards a solution as fast as we can, with sponsorship and involvement by Arab leaders. We have been in the territories for 42 years and our situation is worsening by the day. We must sit and reach a diplomatic solution. As a former defense minister and current member of the cabinet I say - Israel is one of the strongest countries I know. We should work towards an agreement and not be afraid."
He said Israel must never cut a deal with the Palestinians only in the West Bank, rather than tying it to the Gaza Strip. "Otherwise," he said, "we will have three states for two peoples. I safely say that when the moderate Arab world, led by Egypt, knows we are serious and determined and indeed plan to take the course of diplomacy - they will cooperate with us and give their full backing to our diplomatic actions."
Ben-Eliezer also spoke of Israel's relations with the United States following the election of US President Barack Obama. "He's no [George W.] Bush and no [Bill] Clinton, but he's certainly not a [Jimmy] Carter. He sees the world differently and I think maybe this is a chance for us to overcome psychological hang-ups and 'flow' with the diplomacy he leads. Israel is in agreement and understanding with the Americans, [and has] strategic understandings I cannot imagine living without. A strong Israel is also an American interest, but strengthening settlements is not. I look at the full half of the glass - let's leverage US pressure for our benefit. Maybe in five years we will be able to say we gave a great present to our children and grandchildren."