IDF chief Gantz, PM Netanyahu, and Homeland Def. Min. Erdan .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The fallout from last week's public spat between Israel and the United States over strategy toward Iran was the main topic of conversation among Israel's political elite on Saturday, with government representatives and opposition lawmakers offering different views of what it all means.
Homeland Defense Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel Radio that Jerusalem doesn’t recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
In an interview with Israel Rado, Erdan (Likud) said that the Israeli government was well-versed in the details of the interim agreement that is being mulled by the P5+1 powers and Iran, a deal that Israel views as “very bad” for the security of the Western world.
“Iran is a serial violator of UN Security Council resolutions, and it cannot be trusted,” Erdan said. “It mustn’t be allowed to keep a nuclear weapons-making capability on its soil.”
Once an interim agreement is signed, it is liable to turn into a permanent agreement that would entail the removal of economic sanctions against Iran, Erdan told Israel Radio.
Israel must closely monitor the situation and make a decision as to how to act in order to prevent Iran from becoming an existential threat that would touch off a nuclear arms race in the region, according to Erdan. From Israel’s standpoint, all options remained on the table, the minister said.
Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On on Saturday accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of trying to sabotage American diplomatic efforts to roll back the Iranian nuclear program.
“The prime minister isn’t opposed, as he wrote on his Facebook page, to ‘a bad agreement with Iran’,” Gal-On said. “He’s against any agreement that will be reached with Iran in the direct negotiations between Iran and the US.”
“It is in Israel’s interest to support the American goal of preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons through diplomatic means that will include supervision and strict enforcement [of measures] that will prevent it from attaining nuclear weapons,” she said. “It cannot be done by means of warmongering.”
Science, Technology, and Space Minister Yaakov Peri insisted that the Israeli government was in favor of a diplomatic solution to end the dispute with Iran, though he warned of the consequences of allowing the row with Washington to deteriorate further.
“We have differences [with the US], but it’s not a serious crisis,” Peri told a town hall meeting in Tel Aviv. “Nonetheless, one cannot discount the possibility that we’ll reach that point.”
“The sanctions imposed on Iran were what pressured its leadership to come to the negotiating table with the West,” Peri, a former head of the Israel Security Service (Shin Bet), said. “The prime minister says, I don’t support him on this count, that we need to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that sanctions should be kept in place until that goal is achieved.”
“Still, we have no bigger friend than the US, and we must be careful not to exacerbate the crisis because it will have consequences on other issues that are fateful to the country’s future.”
Peri said that he would “probably vote in favor” of a military strike against Iran if it came before the cabinet for a vote and it became apparent that all other possibilities had been exhausted.
Meanwhile, Labor Party chairwoman and opposition chief Shelly Yacimovich criticized Netanyahu on Saturday over the lack of progress in peace talks with the Palestinians.
“In the last two weeks, we have watched with great disappointment at the manner in which the talks have been handled,” Yacimovich said. “It’s a slap in the face to the Americans. It’s complete insanity [for this to happen] at the same time that [the government] is igniting the diplomatic front as it relates to the Iranian issue.”
The Labor chief said that the party would not join the Netanyahu government, but it would support the coalition if tangible progress was made in the peace process.
“Crawling to the Netanyahu government now would put an immediate end to any chance of the talks succeeding,” she said during an appearance at a town hall meeting in Holon. “Netanyahu would have the benefit of a nice, big fig leaf, and he won’t have to do anything else. This would be a huge mistake, similar to the one made by Labor under the leadership of [Ehud] Barak.”