(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz fired off a warning to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Saturday night saying that Israel would not accept a nuclear Iran under any circumstance and is preparing for the possibility that diplomacy to stop Tehran's nuclear aspirations would fail.
"Thwarting Iran's nuclear aspirations will for now be done by passing this hot potato to the [United Nations] Security Council," Mofaz said in his speech at the sixth annual Herziliya Conference session on the balance of Israel's national security. "At the same time however Israel is committed to protecting itself and that is what it plans to do."
Calling out directly to Ahmadinejad, Mofaz said: "I suggest you take a look throughout history and see what happened to others who tried to wipe out the Jewish people. In the end they brought destruction to their own people. I know the people of Iran and they should know that Ahmadinejad's policies will bring a disaster upon them."
Mofaz further accused Iran of financially supporting Palestinian terrorism in the territories. "Money is like fuel for terrorism," the defense minister said. "Iran provides the Hizbullah with $100 million annually some of which reaches Palestinian terror groups. Iran is also the primary supporter for the Islamic Jihad which has carried out most of the suicide bombings in Israel over the past year including the one on Thursday near the old Tel Aviv central bus station."
According to Israeli intelligence, Mofaz said, over the past year alone, Iran sent $10 million to the territories to fund the Islamic Jihad as opposed to $5 million in 2004.
"This combination of a radical regime with long-range missiles and attempts to obtain nuclear power is a threat not just to Israel but to the entire world," Mofaz said.
Moving to the Palestinian front, Mofaz declared that Israel would act independently if the Palestinian Authority failed to meet its obligations according to the US-backed Road Map peace initiative.
"If there will be a legitimate and effective [Palestinian] partner then we will proceed according to the Road Map with the understanding that there are several stages until we reach a final agreement," Mofaz said. "But if we won't find a partner than Israel will need to takes its fates in its own hands."
Israel, the defense minister said, would in any case act to "create defensible borders, to strengthen the settlement blocs as well as a united Jerusalem and its surrounding areas."
Mofaz added that the disengagement from the Gaza Strip granted Israel unprecedented recognition within the international community and the country now had legitimacy to fight terror that it never had in the past.
Turning to Syria, the defense minister said that Bashar Assad had made every possible mistake. "He is an ophthalmologist that can't see far and continues to support terrorism," Mofaz said. "Syria is part of the axis of evilâ€¦Israel has an interest in keeping the northern front quiet but if it escalates we will know how to respond."