Former defense minister Mofaz: Bolton tried to convince me to attack Iran

Shaul Mofaz served as Israeli defense minister from 2002 until 2006.

Shaul Mofaz and John Bolton (photo credit: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS/BAZ RATNER)
Shaul Mofaz and John Bolton
Former defense minister Shaul Mofaz said that John Bolton, US President Donald Trump’s newly-appointed national security adviser, tried to convince him to attack Iran.
Trump ousts McMaster, taps Bolton as national security adviser, March 23, 2018 (Reuters)
Speaking on Sunday at a conference hosted by Yediot Aharonot, Mofaz said: “I have known John Bolton since his days as US ambassador to the United Nations. He tried to convince me that Israel must attack in Iran.”
“I don’t think that it’s a wise move, not for the Americans today or for anyone until the threat becomes real,” he added.
Mofaz became the 16th IDF chief of staff in 1998 and served until 2002. He was then appointed defense minister, a position he held until 2006.
“The Iranian threat is very significant for Israel’s security. Iran is already at Israel’s borders in Syria and Lebanon,” Mofaz warned. “It’s impossible to promise a future to the children of Israel if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon.”
Bolton, who is known to be rabidly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, is considered a strong friend of Israel. He has also stated that the two-state solution is “dead.”
On Saturday night, right-wing Israeli politicians welcomed the news of the hawkish choice to replace Lt.-Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was seen as a constraining influence within Trump’s inner circle.
Bolton’s appointment sends “an unequivocal message to Iran that the days of the terrible nuclear agreement are coming to an end,” said Kulanu MK and former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
“Bolton is known to hate the agreement,” Oren said.
Sitting alongside Mofaz at the conference were former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and former IDF chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Dan Halutz. All four said they were against scrapping the Iran nuclear deal.
Ya’alon emphasized the importance of exhausting non-military options before using force against Iran.
“Leaders in the region have understood that their armies cannot defeat the IDF, and as a result have gone in two directions,” said Ya’alon. “The first is terror – guerrilla, rockets and missiles; the second is an unconventional threat, particularly nuclear.”
“To thwart or to destroy? For as long as possible, obtain achievements without using military force. If there’s no choice, it’ll be necessary to use force,” he added.
The panelists also discussed the likelihood of Israel needing to fight a war this summer after four years of relative quiet on the country’s borders.
“It’s the role of the IDF and the political level to delay the next war as much as possible. I think this effort will successfully push back the war and the next round [of fighting] as long as possible,” said Ya’alon.
Mofaz underlined the strength of the IDF in suggesting that the next conflict is not imminent.
“In my assessment, there will not be a war in the summer, because the IDF is one of the largest and strongest militaries in the world. I think all our enemies nearby know the abilities of the IDF and therefore I don’t believe there will be a war,” he said.
Gantz, who ended his term as chief of staff in February 2015, soon after Operation Protective Edge, said, “I don’t think there needs to be [a war], but there could be.”
Halutz responded: “A war between Jews is certain. With the Arabs, I don’t know.”
Michael Wilner and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this story.