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Current Israeli Approach to Iran

Cabinet Minister Moshe Yaalon: "To My Regret, America's Position Has Not Convinced Iran Of The West"s Determination To Go All The Way'

"Military Option Must Be Last Resort - But It Must Be Credible If Sanctions Are To Succeed"

Isracast Assessment: Yaalon's Position Reflects Different Approaches Inside Israeli Cabinet Which Would Have To Authorize An Israeli Military peration Against Iran

Iranian Missiles

 What is the current thinking in the Israeli cabinet about the Iranian nuclear threat? Moshe Yaalon, a prominent Likud cabinet minister who could be the next defense minister after the upcoming Israeli election, has presented an inside look. At a public gathering, Yaalon articulated different nuances than those expressed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Analyst David Essing stresses that any decision to attack Iran's nuclear sites would have to be authorized by a cabinet forum.

 "The military option against Iran must be the last resort", but Cabinet Minister Moshe Yaalon did not elaborate on when that red line would be crossed. Yaalon, a former IDF Chief of Staff who holds the Strategic Affairs portfolio, is obviously one of the few Israeli officials who is in the loop. In his view, the economic sanctions should have been imposed much earlier and even today not all the sanctions have been adopted. On this score, Israel was waiting to see what new steps would be taken by the EU foreign minister when they meet on Oct.15th. The French News Agency in Brussels has reported the EU is about to announce additional measures banning the import of Iranian natural gas and sanctions on Iranian banks. Yaalon's bottom line: "It is possible to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program without military force, but in order for this to succeed Iran's leaders must face the dilemma of continuing it or survival". At present, the Iranian regime is in an economic tailspin but all the current efforts will be of no avail, if they are not backed by a credible military option. At this point, Yaalon had music for Mitt Romney's ears: "To my regret the American position has not convinced the Iranians of the West's determination to go all the way!'

Moshe Yaalon (Photo: Debbi Cooper)

To date, the cabinet ministers have kept mum on Iran and followed the lead of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak who have articulated Israel's case. After Netanyahu indicated in the UN General Assembly that there may be enough time until the spring or summer to act militarily, Yaalon has spoken candidly about his position that could also represent the thinking of other cabinet ministers. The former IDF Chief of Staff is obviously a natural choice for defense minister if the Likud, as is most likely, forms the next government after the election. With election fever in the air, he took advantage of the opportunity to lambaste Barak for trying to sell himself as a moderate with the Obama administration at Netanyahu's expense. This is a sign of things to come in the coming weeks before election day.

In Israel's political system, members of the various parties first select a list of candidates in internal elections to represent the party in the general election. The candidates are ranked according to the number of votes they received in this party ballot. So in the first stage of the election campaign it's a free-for-all inside the parties with each candidate throwing his hat in the ring. His ranking will obviously affect which cabinet post he might expect to get if the party wins the general election. The party leader is automatically granted first place on the ticket. So by assailing Barak, Yaalon is off to a quick start inside the internal Likud race. In response, Barak's Independence party accused Yaalon of playing election politics calling the allegations 'pathetic'. The current defense minister also retorted that his efforts with the Americans had raised strategic cooperation to a record high. In a big election ad in some Israeli papers, a large photo of Barak appeared with the banner: 'Israel needs a responsible adult'. However the polls show that Barak's Independence party may not even win one seat in the election.

David Essing

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