The US should deal with halting North Korea's nuclear weapons program before Iran's, since that would have a big influence on the Islamic republic, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying Monday.
"North Korea is developing long-range missiles in the backyard of China and Russia and nothing happens to them," Barak told The New York Times. "When the Iranian leadership asks themselves, 'Should we be worried or just go through the ritual of defying and cheating?' the answer depends on what happens to North Korea. A coherent move toward blocking nuclear proliferation should start with North Korea. It would have very positive ramifications for blocking Iran." Barak is scheduled to meet US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during his stay there this week.
The defense minister also said he was opposed to comparing the Iranian threat to the Holocaust era.
"I don't buy the relevance of comparing the situation with that of Europe in 1938," Barak said. "Then, the hope for a normal Jew looking into the future was to flee. We are not in such a situation. We can defend ourselves against any kind of threat."
On Thursday, Barak was quoted as saying that Iran did not constitute an existential threat to Israel.
"I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel," he had told Yediot Aharonot. "Israel is strong, I don't see anyone who could pose an existential threat."
On the Middle East peace process, Barak voiced a degree of pessimism regarding the resumption of negotiations, despite the tripartite meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama set for the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
"I fear the Palestinians are going to miss a huge opportunity," Barak said in the Times interview. "There is a president who says determinedly, 'I am going to put my political capital into making sure there is an independent Palestinian state and solve all the core issues in two years.' If we bear in mind Israel's security needs and the demand that a final agreement means an end to the conflict, this is an opportunity that must not be missed."