Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and MK Avigdor Liberman 370.
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni, Ministry of Defense)
Iran's goal in the current round of diplomacy with the international community is to hold on to its ability to independently enrich uranium, and such an outcome is unacceptable to Israel, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned on Wednesday.
"They're striving to keep their ability to independently enrich uranium,” Ya’alon said during an appearance before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “This is unacceptable from our perspective, as this is the way to mislead and hoodwink [the international community], as they've done in the past."
Israel's position is that an easing of sanctions must only come following an Iranian willingness to give up on independent enrichment, do away with its plutonium program, and remove the enriched uranium already in Iran's possession, the defense minister added.
"We're trying to have an influence through open channels, not only with the Americans, but also with other members of the P5+1 members, so that there really will be an efficient utilization of economic sanctions, to really bring the Iranian regime to decide between having a bomb or the survival of the regime," Ya'alon said.
Should the diplomatic and economic measures fail, Israel must be ready to defend itself, by itself, he added.
The Iranian threat remains the number one strategic challenge facing Israel today, Ya'alon stated.
He reiterated his concern that, following the renewal of diplomacy with Iran, the international community may "be tempted to be impressed by the Iranian charm offensive and give in to the regime. We've learned in the past twenty how this regime knows how to cheat, to dupe, and mislead the West, despite decisions by the Security Council under the supervision of the IAEA."
Israel's position on this issue is "very clear," and "has been made clear to our friends as well.”
“What we're seeing at the moment from Iran, including the political change and change in its willingness to negotiate with the US, is a significant change that stems from efficient economic pressure against the Iranian regime," Ya'alon said. The change came from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, "who actually takes the decisions," and who concluded that in order to survive he must talk to the Americans."
Khamenei has been forced to make a few concessions in his nuclear program, but the Iranian intention is not to give up on the nuclear option, Ya'alon continued.
Addressing Syria, Ya'alon said that as of now, the Assad regime is meeting its commitment to disband its chemical weapons program, but cautioned that the "test will be in the end result. Will he try to hide [chemical arms], or will he try to hide some sort of chemical capability that will remain in his hands? Time will tell."
Israel is monitoring this issue and maintaining its red lines on Syria, which forbid the transfer of advanced arms from Syria to Hezbollah, and the transfer of chemical weapons. There has been no attempt to date to move chemical weapons to Hezbollah, Ya'alon added.
The Syrian civil war continues to rage, though weekly casualty rates have dropped from 1000 war deaths to 600, he said, briefing the committee. "I estimate that there will not be a political solution in Syria," he said.