Israeli leaders skeptical of new diplomatic efforts on Iran nuclear program (WASHINGTON POST) By Joel Greenberg JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/30/12)
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JERUSALEM — After an inconclusive round of talks this month between
world powers and Iran about its nuclear program, Israeli leaders are
expressing deep skepticism about the chances for a diplomatic
breakthrough and urging tougher international demands.
Following months of advocating stricter sanctions against Iran,
Israeli officials are now pushing for a halt to all its uranium
enrichment activity, warning that further delays could put the
Iranian nuclear program beyond the reach of an effective military
The Israeli statements, ahead of another planned round of talks in
Moscow in June, reflect concerns that the sense of urgency that
pervaded earlier discussions on Iran has faded in recent months and
that Washington and other nations are allowing the Iranian leadership
to gain more time to pursue what Israel says is a drive toward
“We have no illusions about the talks,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak
said Wednesday at the annual conference of the Institute for National
Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, a research center with close
links to Israel’s military and security establishment.
Calling for stronger international action against Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad after the massacre of more than 100 people in the
town of Houla last week, Barak warned that the obstacles to
mobilizing intervention to stop the bloodshed in Syria were a lesson
“The difficulty the international community is having in generating
the ability to act even in such a clear-cut case . . . must tell us
something about other areas as well,” Barak said.
It is far from certain that “if only conditions are created in which
it is self-evident and clear that the world must act, it will indeed
act,” Barak added. “It is not self-evident, and it is not clear.”
Israel and the United States have different timetables for assessing
the Iranian nuclear effort, Barak said, asserting, “Our clock is
ticking faster.” He repeated earlier warnings that Iran is
approaching a “zone of immunity” in which its nuclear facilities
would be dispersed and protected underground, beyond the reach of a
“The relevant moment diplomatically is the last moment you can do
something about the issue,” Barak said, adding that “the Iranians are
systematically moving to a point after which Israel will not be able
to do anything about it.”
In an address Tuesday in the same forum, Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu laid out what he said should be the international demands
on Iran, and he criticized what he called a softening of the stance
of Western nations in the discussions.
“Iran must stop all enrichment of nuclear material, it must remove
from its territory all the material that has been enriched so far,
and it must dismantle the underground nuclear facility at Qom,”
Netanyahu said, referring to the city near the fortified plant at
Fordow. “Only an explicit Iranian commitment to implement these three
demands, and explicit verification of their implementation, can stop
the Iranian nuclear program.”
Netanyahu said world powers should have demanded a halt to all
Iranian enrichment activities. “But instead of that, the demands are
being lowered,” and low-grade enrichment, which Iran maintains is for
peaceful purposes, is now being tolerated, he said.
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, in an interview this week on
Israeli Army Radio, said he detected a lack of urgency and even foot-
dragging among nations negotiating with the Iranians.
“There’s a tendency in the West, and we’re familiar with this from
past historical events, to avoid a confrontation — to postpone the
problem to next year, to the next term, to the next generation,”
Yaalon said. “It is incumbent on us, based on our historical
experience, to ring the alarm bells.”
But echoes of the internal debate in Israel were also heard at the
Tel Aviv conference, when two former top security officials counseled
against hasty military action.
Meir Dagan, a former head of the Mossad, Israel’s overseas
intelligence agency, disputed arguments that Israel faces a choice
of “either bombing or the bomb.”
“If we bomb, they won’t have a bomb?” Dagan asked, arguing that an
Israeli attack would only accelerate the Iranian nuclear program in
response and that “we will give them legitimacy to attain nuclear
Furthermore, he said, an Israeli attack would help the Iranian
leadership overcome serious domestic challenges and unite Iranians
behind their government.
“That would be a mistake,” he said.
Gabi Ashkenazi, a former army chief of staff, argued that more time
should be given for economic sanctions to take their toll before
contemplating a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“It’s important to exhaust all other means before using, or
considering using, the military option,” he said. “There’s still time
Barak, who argued that military action now would be less costly than
confronting a nuclear-armed Iran in the future, seemed dismissive of
the chances for diplomatic success.
“With all the preference everyone has for diplomacy, sanctions and
miracles from heaven,” he said, “no option should be removed from the
table.” (© 2010 The Washington Post Company 05/30/12)
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