Sallai meridor 224.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy [file])
Israeli Ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor declared Monday that Israel should always be prepared "to preempt, to deter and to defeat if we can" when speaking about the threats facing the country.
Chief among those threats was Iran, said Meridor, who called for a unified international as well as domestic American front to counter the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions.
"This will take a united United States on this matter, that they would not have the illusion today that come January '09, they [Teheran] have it their own way," he said, referring to the inauguration of President George W. Bush's successor, who could potentially change US policy on Iran.
Meridor said "very little time" remained to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and to avoid the worst-case scenarios, outlined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, of an Iranian bomb or a war with Iran.
"There may be a third way still, but only if the diplomatic and economic steps could be dramatically - not incrementally - intensified," he said, adding that 33 percent of Iran's trade is with Europe.
Meridor's comments appeared to put Israel at odds with America's approach to UN Security Council sanctions, in which the US is pushing for a gradual increase of pressure on Iran through a series of sanctions resolutions so long as Teheran refuses to halt uranium enrichment. A third such resolution is currently being considered.
Israeli sources said that to their knowledge the administration is also calling for tougher sanctions.
The ambassador said Iran would only stop its quest for nuclear capabilities when "the cost [is at] a level that in their minds will put at risk the accomplishments of the [1979 Islamic] revolution."
Meridor began his remarks at an American Jewish Committee luncheon by saying, "As strong as we are, we should always be prepared to preempt, to deter, to defeat if we can, to protect, and not assume that threats have evaporated. They have not."
The ambassador's comments come two days after outgoing Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, during a visit to Washington, also pointed to preemption as an option for Israel, though he was speaking about Lebanon as opposed to the general strategic picture painted by Meridor.
The talk comes amid growing speculation on how far the US and Israel will go to prevent a nuclear Iran and whether effective preemptive military action is possible. The White House tried Monday to tamp down accusations that the administration was ratcheting up the rhetoric on Iran and paving the way for a strike on its nuclear facilities.
On Sunday, US Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking at the same Washington Institute for Near East Policy conference as Kaplinsky, declared, "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." His remarks followed Bush's own warning that a Teheran with nuclear know-how could lead to World War III.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto rejected the depiction of Cheney's comments as "stepping up rhetoric," instead characterizing them as a reiteration of long-standing American policy.