NEW YORK – National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz cast doubts on a sustainable nuclear deal with Iran and made strident remarks against what he sees as a burgeoning tide of anti-Semitism around the world during the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference on Sunday.
Steinitz, who is the top liaison to the US and Europe on the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, arrived in the US earlier this past week to meet with his US counterparts in Washington. He has repeatedly voiced a skepticism about the deal.
“Unless we see productive change, it is a bad agreement, an unsatisfactory agreement, too many loopholes,” Steinitz said. “Too dangerous for Israel, and not just for Israel, for the security of the world.”
The minister spent much of his time expressing his doubts on an emerging nuclear deal with Iran focusing on what he saw as the fundamental flaw of having an agreement that is only effective for a decade.
“I’m not totally confident that in the next 10 years Iran will become Holland,” Steinitz said wryly. “The future of global security cannot rely on the hypothesis that Iran will become Holland.”
“Wait 10 years, and if Iran acts like Holland then, if they’ve gone through democratic processes and become something like Holland, then you can reduce the restrictions.
But if Iran remains a dangerous regime committed to the destruction of Israel, it’s not enough to have a 10-year agreement, you need a 20- or 30-year agreement,” Steinitz said.
When The Jerusalem Post’s editor-in-chief Steve Linde pressed him on whether a military strike against Iran was an option, Steinitz declined to respond directly, but he suggested that it was.
“I never elaborate about the military option, but I can only say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear he won’t allow nuclear weapons,” he said.
Perhaps Steinitz most striking remarks came near the end of his talk when he warned that the anti-Israeli attitudes in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement reminded him of pre-war Nazi Germany.
Steinitz cited a German leader’s support for BDS and a Brazilian professor’s desire to locate Jewish and Israeli students on college campuses as indications of an increasingly dangerous racism. While he explained that both men brushed off accusations of anti-Semitism – the German leader said he simply advocated for “freedom to do business as you like” and the Brazilian professor claimed publishing the locations of Jewish students was a matter of “freedom of information” – Steinitz rejected those arguments.
“Some people are smiling, but I don’t laugh,” he told to the crowd. “It reminds me of the dark times of Germany of the 1930s before the Second World War where Jews were forced to announce their presence with a yellow band, a star of David.”
“This is anti-Semitism, even though people disguise it,” he continued. “They’ll say: ‘It’s Israel we’re against, the Jews who support Israel.’” “We have to put a racist badge or tag to those racists and anti-Israelis before they are putting a yellow tag on us,” he said referencing the mandated labeling of Jewish people in Nazi Germany.
Steinitz’s remarks received sustained applause.
The minister took time to address what several speakers called disrespectful jeering towards some of the other speakers. Heckles from the audience, especially during US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s speech where he defended the Obama administration’s policies, were so remarkable that Steinitz began his talk by taking several minutes to chastise the more vocal conference attendees.
“We have differences, sharp differences regarding the Iranian deal.” Steinitz said.
“We have to appreciate our friends, even in times of differences and debate.”
Steinitz had no trouble with hecklers during his time on stage.
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