Ayalon: No link between Palestinians and Iran

Deputy FM says Iran a "very weak country," nuclear threat can be stopped with stiff economic sanctions.

Danny Ayalon 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Danny Ayalon 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has rejected any attempts to link progress regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the international community's ability to band together to stop Iran's nuclear program. "We have to stop the Iranian threat as if there were no conflict with the Palestinians and we have to progress with the Palestinians as if there were no [nuclear] threat from Iran," Ayalon said on Thursday. "The Iranian threat is a threat to everyone. The issue has nothing to do with the Palestinians," he said. Ayalon spoke at the end of a two-day conference on Israel's relationship with the United States organized by BESA, the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. When the US takes stock of Iran's nuclear threat, it is concerned for its own interests such as oil prices, American hegemony and the radicalization of moderate countries in the region, said Ayalon. He said he thought it was possible to stop the Iranian nuclear threat through stiff economic sanctions that blocked Iran's access to financial institutions, as well as to air and sea traffic. "I believe that Iran can be stopped because the most frustrating thing here is that Iran is a very weak country with many vulnerabilities - economic, social and political" said Ayalon. It lacked an industrial base and many of citizens existed on government subsidies, he said. If the international community took a firm economic stance against Iran, its economy could grind to a halt in a matter of days, said Ayalon. "I do believe that if the Iranians will continue with their rejectionist approach, the Obama administration is almost uniquely qualified to really coalesce an international group, a tight one, to band diplomatically against Iran," said Ayalon. He added that he hoped that Russia would be part of that group because it would be difficult to stop Iran's nuclear program without Russia. "In this light I view very favorably this new rapprochement between Washington and Moscow on Ukraine and missiles in the Czech Republic," said Ayalon. The Russians should pay back the US in kind by standing with it against Iran, he said. Moving on to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said 16 years of diplomatic efforts have not made Israelis feel more secure or improved life for the Palestinians. "Something must be wrong here," said Ayalon. A fresh approach is needed in which things would be done in a sober and effective way, he added. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's new government has the right but also the obligation to conduct a policy review, he said. Its conclusions would be revealed "first and foremost" to the United States during Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama next week. While he said he could not reveal any details, he added it was likely that the government would conclude that it had been unrealistic to head into the end game when such a high level of mistrust existed between the two sides. "How can you negotiate the core issues when there is such mistrust?" he asked. Israel needs to make concessions but not at the price of threatening its existence, Ayalon said. Any territory that Israel gave up would turn into Hamastan and would bring Iran closer to Israel, Ayalon said. "In a closed room even Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] and [PA Prime Minister] Salaam Fayad would admit to you that if Israel were not present in Judea and Samaria, Hamas would take over in a heartbeat," said Ayalon. "We are not going to give up territory without knowing what is going to happen," he added. In spite of policy disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington, Ayalon said he believed that Israel's relationship with the US was "very good." "If we look into the future, what will continue to guide the Israeli-American relationship is working together for the same goal, even though there are some disagreements," Ayalon said. The relationship between the two countries is based on a long tradition of mutual interests and "shared values" in which both countries have the same outlook on the world at large, specifically the Middle East. "We see a Middle East with a peaceful co-existence among all nations" in a region with an advanced economy and technology, as well as a moderate outlook and the elimination of terror, particularly from Iran, said Ayalon.