Iran has given close to $10 million to Palestinian terror groups in Israel since the beginning of the year, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Monday.
"The money transferred by Iran serves as fuel for the terror groups," Mofaz said during a speech at the inauguration ceremony for the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University. "A combination of Hamas's rise to power and Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons demonstrates the growing motivation to perpetrate anti-Israel terror attacks," he said. Mofaz did not elaborate on how the Iranian money reached Palestinian terror organizations.
A senior security official said Monday night that stopping the money flow was extremely difficult. Iran, the official said, employed Western Union money transfers, human couriers and bank wire transfers sent to Palestinians' personal bank accounts to get the money to the terror groups, mostly to Islamic Jihad. The funds were sometimes sent, the official said, to seemingly innocent Palestinians who then passed them on to terrorists.
"There are smart ways to transfer the money," the official said. "It is not just moved in a suitcase. They use Western Union, banks and other ways, and it is difficult to get our hands on it."
Less than an hour after Mofaz wrapped up his speech calling Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the greatest threat to Israel since Hitler, the Islamic republic's leader told reporters that Israel was an artificial state that could not continue to exist.
"Some 60 years have passed since the end of World War II, and why should the people of Germany and Palestine pay now for a war in which the current generation was not involved?" Ahmadinejad said in a televised press conference. "We say that this fake regime [Israel] cannot logically continue to exist."
Hinting that increased efforts needed to be made to stimulate a revolution within Iran, Mofaz called on the free world to invest energy and resources in raising the Iranian people's awareness regarding the dangers created by Ahmadinejad's regime.
"The Iranian people need to know that the regime's efforts to lead global terror will negatively affect them," he said. "More can be done from outside Iran to raise the Iranian people's awareness that the current regime will bring destruction upon them."
Israel, he said, could not afford to be indifferent to Ahmadinejad's threats, especially on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. "We cannot be indifferent to the declarations made by one of the most radical leaders in the world since Hitler," he said. "We need to take everything he says seriously."
Mofaz's speech - possibly his last public appearance as defense minister - was interrupted by left-wing activists holding signs that protested the killing of Palestinian children during recent IDF anti-Kassam operations in the Gaza Strip. After the protesters were removed from the hall, Mofaz said that Israel, in contrast to the Palestinians, did everything possible to avoid killing innocent people.
"Israel makes every effort not to harm innocent civilians," he said. "The Palestinians do exactly the opposite, and that is why all of these bleeding hearts should first visit the families of terror victims and express their condolences there."
Also Monday, Ahmadinejad hinted that Iran was considering withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He said he didn't think the UN Security Council would impose sanctions on Iran.
"Those who speak about sanctions would be damaged more [than Iran]," he told a press conference. "But no particular event will happen, don't worry."
Ahmadinejad said that Iran would reconsider its compliance with treaty and its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency if they continued to be of no benefit to the country. "What has more than 30 years of membership in the agency given us?" he asked.
The agency, a UN body, has accused Iran of failing to answer all questions about its nuclear program and referred the country to the Security Council for noncompliance with its demands.
"Working in the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the agency is our concrete policy," Ahmadinejad said. "[But] if we see that they are violating our rights, or they don't want to accept [our rights], well, we will reconsider."
The Security Council has given Iran until Friday to suspend enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or material for nuclear warheads. Iran has rejected the demand, arguing it was entitled to carry out enrichment for peaceful purposes under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
AP contributed to the report.