It’s a mistake for the US to use Iran to fight Islamic State and to help police the Middle East, particularly by allowing it to become a nuclear threshold state, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz warned on Sunday in a pre-election interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“Iran is already a stable caliphate and to allow it to be a superpower, this is a terrible, historic mistake,” Steinitz said.
It’s important to defeat Islamic State, not just because it does terrible things, but to prevent another caliphate in the Middle East, Steinitz said.
“One Iran is bad enough.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was correct when in his address to a joint session of Congress he said that to use Iran to defeat Islamic State is to win the battle but not the war, Steinitz said.
“We are working hard to convince the US of this, it can not be the solution.”
If the US goes down that route, it “will get an Iranian Shi’ite empire with such vast resources and vast territory that the problem of Islamic State will be only one percent of this new problem.
You do not resolve this problem [with Islamic State] by creating a bigger problem,” he said.
But this is only part of Israel’s disagreement with the US. It is also opposed to the deal that the US and the other five world powers are negotiating with Iran, because it will “make Iran a legal nuclear threshold state.”
Iran sponsors terrorist groups all over the region and is trying to take over the Middle East. Israel does not want Iran to form an axis that stretches from Tehran to its northern border, Steinitz said.
The Islamic Republic has threatened to annihilate Israel and is developing intercontinental missiles that can target the US, he said.
Halting the development of such missiles should be a basic US prerequisite before it lifts sanctions and allows Iran to normalize its economic ties with the Iran, the minister said.
These kind of growing regional threats from Islamic jihadist groups, he said, prevent Israel from withdrawing from any part of the West Bank.
The Likud believes, in principle, in two states for two peoples, but said it was impossible to think of it within the current reality in the Middle East.
In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and handed it to the Palestinian Authority only to have Hamas take it over in a bloody coup, Steinitz said.
“One can not ignore the developments on the ground, after what happened to us in Gaza after the disengagement,” he said. “It is going on now all over the Middle East.”
The US withdrew from Iraq, he said, and jihadist forces moved in.
“Therefore in the current situation it is very clear that if someone will pull out from the West Bank, the end result will not be peace but a nightmare.”
Prior to the disengagement, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had promised that rockets would no longer be launched against Israel from Gaza once the 21 settlements were evacuated.
That pledge was never kept, he said.
Since then, Israel has been under constant rocket fire, and if Israel withdraws from the West Bank, then the center of the country and Ben-Gurion International Airport would similarly be targeted.
“People can not ignore the realities on the ground,” said Steinitz. “For Israel to withdraw from the West Bank [now] is suicide,” Steinitz said.
He added, he did not believe that Abbas could deliver on a peace deal.
Speculating on what might happen after the election, Steinitz said, that the Likud would not sit in a unity government with the Zionist Union.
The gaps between the two parties are too wide on Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the economy.
A unity government would not last more then a few months, he said.
He attacked Herzog and said he was not competent to head the country, and that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid had done “enormous damage” to the economy when he was finance minister.
Steinitz gave a cautious plug for Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon and said he would be a better finance minister then Lapid. At least he would take it more seriously, at least he will say, “I know that I do not know. And that is the beginning of any wisdom. Kahlon can say that, Lapid is too arrogant.”