Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon .
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry spokesman)
Since Iran and the international community reached an interim deal over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in November 2013, there have been "quite a few violations" of economic sanctions on Tehran, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Monday, during a meeting with reporters at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
Ya'alon said Israel is "closely following" the US-led diplomatic process with Tehran, adding that the results of the talks will have consequences for Israeli security. He hinted that Israel was continuing to prepare for the possibility that it may have to eventually act alone if the talks proved fruitless, and Iran carried on making advances in the nuclear program.
"We have to prepare, based on the 'if I am not for myself, who will be for me?' approach," Ya'alon said. "The Iranians are not as isolated as they were. From their perspective, the situation has improved [since the interim agreement]," he added.
Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, continue to support the Assad regime in Syria in the civil war against rebels, a conflict that has seen 150,000 casualties so far, Ya'alon noted. Hezbollah has lost hundreds of fighters and suffered thousands of casualties in Syria, he added. The Syrian opposition is "struggling to present an alternative" due to infighting among multiple factions.
The defense minister said the rebels had launched new offenses in several areas recently, including Damascus, Aleppo, Dara, and the northern Syrian coast, near the Turkish border. Despite Syrian army efforts to push them back, the rebels control most of the Syrian Golan near the Israeli border, with the exception of Al-Khader and Quneitra - two areas that recently served as staging grounds for terrorist attacks against Israel, Ya'alon continued.
"This activity [the attacks] serves the interests of the Assad regime and Hezbollah, and was carried out by 'emissaries.' We place the responsibility on the regime. It could have prevented the attacks," Ya'alon added.
In neighboring Lebanon, Sunni-Shi'ite fighting has spilled over from Syria, reaching Beirut, Tripoli, and the Bek'a Valley, and is claiming dozens of casualties every month, Ya'alon said. The fighting has taken the form of car bombs, exchanges of fire, and rockets.
Despite accusing Israel of being a recent air strike on a convoy of advanced weapons in eastern Lebanon, and carrying out a bombing in the Hard Dov sector that injured four paratroopers last month, Hezbollah does not want to initiate an escalated conflict with Israel, Ya'alon said.
Turning his sights to the West Bank, the defense minister said unorganized mass rioting rises and falls due to a host of developments, including the status of talks between the PA and Israel, and the economic situation in the West Bank, The violence is ultimately rooted in incitement by official Palestinian Authority media, Ya'alon said.
"We are in the midst of a crisis [with the PA]," Ya'alon said. "The PA is a partner that is prepared to receive, but not to give. it is unwilling to talk about recognition of a Jewish state, or about ending its demand of a right of return, or an end to the conflict," he added.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas continues to manufacture rockets and dig attack tunnels, but it is not initiating terror attacks against Israel. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, meanwhile, is "acting as an Iranian arm in our back yard. It is growing more powerful with the help of Iranian funding and training," Ya'alon said. Smaller terror groups, dissatisfied by the reduction in violence between Gaza and Israel, are challenging Hamas due to the regime's attempts to enforce a truce, he added.