yaalon office 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In some of the harshest Israeli public criticism yet of Washington’s policy
toward Iran, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Sunday that US
“election year considerations” were behind its caution over tough sanctions
sought by US legislators.
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“In the United States, the Senate passed a
resolution, by a majority of 100-to-none, to impose these sanctions, and in the
US administration there is hesitation for fear of oil prices rising this year,
out of election-year considerations,” Ya’alon told Israel Radio. “In that regard,
this is certainly a disappointment, for now.”
While Washington has been
talking tougher about Iran’s nuclear work and threat to block oil export routes
out of the Gulf if hit with harsher sanctions, new US measures adopted on
December 31 gave US President Barack Obama leeway on the scope of penalties on the
Iranian central bank and oil exports.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
neither publicly endorsed nor distanced himself from Ya’alon’s statements, with
one government source saying Ya’alon was speaking for himself, and not for the
At the same time, the source said Ya’alon’s frustration
reflected the thinking of some within the country’s national security
Israel’s position regarding the fear that stiff sanctions
would lead to a spike in oil prices is that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states – as concerned about a nuclear Iran as Israel is – can
“relatively easily” expand their oil production to account for the loss of
Ya’alon’s comments came before a scheduled trip to Israel at
the end of the week by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of
Staff. His visit is widely expected to focus on Iran, and the various scenarios
regarding possible military intervention.
Ya’alon said Israel should not
“leap forward” to attack Iran, but had to be ready to defend itself. “Let’s hope
we do not arrive at that moment,” he said.
One senior government official
told visitors from abroad on Sunday that what was required now from the West was
“tough sanctions in the next few weeks.”
“We see the sanctions are
affecting the Iranian economy, but not yet affecting its nuclear program,” the
senior official said. “Now is the time to apply sanctions,” the official said of
measures aimed at Iran’s central bank and its petrochemical industry. “If
you wait, then they will become irrelevant.”
The message Israeli
officials have been passing on to their interlocutors around the world in recent
days is that it is critical now for the international community to “do
EU leaders are scheduled to meet by the end of the month to decide
whether to carry out a proposal to embargo Iranian oil.
said in recent days that while the Iranians were starting to feel the pains of
sanctions, more must be done.
“We are discerning a concern from the
Iranian regime about where the sanctions could lead,” one official said. “We are
picking up tension.”
Israeli officials are also stressing that tougher
sanctions needed to be coupled with a clear message from the international
community that if the sanctions failed, the international community would take
military action to keep Iran from gaining nuclear capability.Reuters
contributed to this report.