(photo credit: AP [file])
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter on Saturday blasted the recent US National Intelligence Estimate that says Teheran has halted its nuclear arms program, warning that a nuclear Iran could lead to a regional war that would threaten Israel.
Dichter also suggested that if American intelligence agencies were wrong about Iran in the NIE, released on December 3, they could also issue false information about whether the Palestinians are fulfilling their security commitments.
He cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to a regional war like the Yom Kippur War, in which Israel was caught off-guard by Egypt and Syria.
"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons may lead to a regional Yom Kippur, in which Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," said Dichter, speaking at a "Cultural Shabbat" talk in Bat Yam.
"The softened intelligence report proves that Israel failed to provide the Americans with the whole picture concerning the Iranian nuclear threat," he said.
"Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat," said Dichter, in one of the strongest criticisms of the US intelligence analysis offered by a cabinet member.
In comparison, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had merely responded to the report by arguing that Iran was still a threat and that Israel was still convinced of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear aspirations. Israel is not the only country analysts consider threatened by Iranian nuclearization; some Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, are also viewed as potential Iranian targets.
Despite his warning, Dichter, a former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head who was a fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institute and has close ties with the US Department of Homeland Security, went on to say the US was a "powerful country" that conducted its affairs in a "logical manner."
He added that it was now the duty of Israel and other concerned countries to provide the US with intelligence information and analyses that would help to change the American assessment.
Regarding the Palestinians, Dichter warned that retired US general James Jones, who heads the mechanism to judge the implementation of road map obligations, could also receive an inaccurate assessment of the situation on the ground and that there were no guarantees he would not make a serious error of judgment regarding the Palestinians' adherence to their commitments.
The "US could make a mistake and decide that the Palestinians have fulfilled their commitments, which could entail very serious consequences from Israel's perspective," Dichter warned.
"Israel cannot allow a situation in which Hamas conducts a war of attrition from Gaza, while Israel is simultaneously holding negotiations with the Palestinians," Dichter said.
He stressed the need for the Palestinians to establish "real and operational" law enforcement, legislative and judicial systems.
He added that the Old City of Jerusalem was unquestionably part of Israeli Jerusalem, but regarding Syria, conceded that there could be no agreement without Israel withdrawing from the Golan, and that the question was what guarantees Israel would receive in return.
AP and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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