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No Appeasement Of Nuclear Iran

Moshe Arens: 'Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Must Tell President Barack Obama That Israel Is No Banana Republic When Its Vital Security Is At Stake'

'Iranian Nuclear Threat Surpasses All Else And Must Not Be Connected Palestinian Or Any Other Issue'

'Nature of Intelligence Assessments To Differ - Israeli & American Intelligence Have Close Communication & U.S. Probably Knows Everything Israel Does About Iran'

Should Israel go it alone, if its intelligence community discovers that Iran is about to produce a nuclear weapon? What is  Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu likely to tell U.S. President Barack when they meet in the White House later this month to discuss Iran and the Palestinians? In an exclusive interview with IsraCast, Moshe Arens a former Israeli defense minister and foreign minister as well as ambassador to Washington, discussed these crucial issues as the U.S. leader prepares to engage Iran in a nuclear dialogue while 'urging 'progress on the ground' along the Palestinian track.

Audio: Welcome to our IsraCast listeners world-wide. We're speaking now with Moshe Arens who has served as Israel's defense minister, foreign minister and ambassador to Washington. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington later this month. Before then, State President Shimon Peres conferred with the American leader to see how the land lies. From the Israeli perspective, the Iranian nuclear threat is rising swiftly to the fore. Upon taking office, Netanyahu declared that Iran would not be permitted  to acquire nuclear weapons and Iran's Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust denier, would not be allowed to perpetrate a second Holocaust. Meanwhile, Obama and the international community appear to be banking again on diplomacy, while the Iranian centrifuges keep spinning out enriched uranium. Moshe Arens, in you personal view, could and should Israel defy the U.S. and attack Iran's nuclear facilities, if it becomes convinced Iran is about to get the bomb?

Benyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Moshe Arens, now retired made clear that he was not acquainted with Israel's latest intelligence information and therefore he did not feel qualified to discuss such an issue on radio or the Internet. But there were various aspects to be carefully weighed in assessing Iran's nuclear weapons capability not only weapons grade uranium, and Israel would have to carefully consider all these aspects before taking such an 'important and fateful decision', such as attacking Iran. The Israeli defense expert said the Israeli and American intelligence communities conduct a close communication and Obama was likely to know everything Israel did on Iran's nuclear program. Although the Israeli assessment is that Iran could upgrade its existing centrifuges to produce enough weapons grade uranium for a nuclear weapon 'within a number of months to a year', the American estimate varies from a year to five years. However, the former defense minister felt that it was in the nature of intelligence estimates to differ when it came to forecasting the date when Iran might be able to go nuclear. In this respect, Obama was not likely to hear anything new from Netanyahu at their upcoming meeting at the White House. As Arens put: 'Everything we know, they know'. 

In light of this, Israel should not make any security concessions until the Iranian nuclear threat was defused

Was there not the danger that the future American nuclear dialogue with Iran would drag on into the appeasement of Tehran as it proceeded with its nuclear plan and suddenly 'broke out'  with an actual nuclear weapon? Recently in the U.S., voices have been heard advising that America must learn to live a nuclear armed Iran. Arens replied that he had heard such voices adding that this could be disinformation perhaps designed to make the Iranian leadership think they had nothing to worry about when indeed they may have something to worry about. And what of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's advice to Obama that he draw a time-limit for the nuclear talks while simultaneously mobilizing international support for sanctions with teeth against Iran, if the talks failed to deter Tehran from its nuclear program? The former defense minister felt it was preferable to make such suggestions in private; in any case the Americans would make their own decisions and not be influenced by what they heard from across the ocean. 

Barack Obama

Does the current situation involving the Iranian nuclear threat and the refusal of the international community to impose credible sanctions resemble the appeasement of Nazi Germany prior to World War II? Israel's former defense minister rejected this analogy. In his view, Iran could not be compared to a Nazi Germany nor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolph Hitler. But having said, Arens added that Iran represented a threat not only to the Jewish state but to the world. 

Binyamin Netanyahu like the late Menachem Begin, will make clear that 'Israel is no bananna republic when it comes to vital security'

Could and should Israel make security concessions to the Palestinians as has been suggested by U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a means to building an Arab coalition against Iran? Arens replied that with all due to respect to Secretary Clinton, the Iranian nuclear threat surpasses all other Middle East issues and there was no connection between such concessions to the Palestinians and Iran. Such an approach did not make sense from either an Israeli or American perspective. Iran overshadows everything and should not be contingent on Palestinian question. Moreover, Israel had enough on its plate  having to cope with the Hamas threat in the south and Hezbollah in the north. In light of this, Israel should not make any security concessions until the Iranian nuclear threat was defused. And what of the Palestinians' West Bank President Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, while he demands his own Palestinian state? Should Israel insist on this recognition as a condition for negotiations on Palestine.  The former defense minister felt it was irrelevant whatever Abbas said. The Palestinian leader was not even in control of Judea & Samaria ( West Bank) let alone Gaza from where he had been expelled by Hamas. On this score, Arens could see no chance for any future negotiations between Israel and Abbas. 

What does all of this mean for the upcoming summit between Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama?  Israel will obviously give the U.S. the time it needs for a meaningful dialogue to deter Iran from producing nuclear weapons while not closing the door to negotiations with the Palestinians -  possibly trying to build from the bottom up rather than trying to confer a state on a divided Palestinian camp threatened by a total Hamas takeover. In any case, from an Israeli perspective, Moshe Arens is confident that if push comes to shove, Binyamin Netanyahu like the late Menachem Begin, will make clear that 'Israel is no banana republic when it comes to vital security'. However, Arens is also confident that Netanyahu will be able to present Israel's case to Obama in such a manner that will lead to the strong and friendly ties that have long characterized Israeli-U.S. relations.

David Essing

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