All enrichment in Iran must stop, defense minister says

All enrichment in Iran must stop, defense minister says

Moshe Ya'alon admits fear of West getting duped by Iran, expresses skepticism over diplomatic solution in Syria

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, in white, addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (Photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/ Ministry of Defense)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, in white, addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (Photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/ Ministry of Defense)

Israel’s defense minister on Wednesday called the shift in Iran’s nuclear policy “a significant change,” but said that Tehran’s bottom line — seeking a nuclear weapon based on domestic enrichment of nuclear fuel — has not been modified.

“That is why our position is that in order to ease up on the sanctions it is imperative that it be demanded of the Iranians that they forgo their enrichment capacity,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, known as the P5+1, to demand that Iran stop all activity on the plutonium-producing heavy water reactor and give up all already enriched uranium.

Ya’alon described himself and the prime minister as concerned that “someone would be seduced” by Iran’s charm offensive and “let the regime off [the hook].”

Ya’alon said he hoped that diplomacy and sanctions would bury the Iranian nuclear project, “but in the end we have to be ready to defend ourselves with our own power, as we say all the time.”

If Iran seeks an energy-producing nuclear plant, he said, despite the country’s vast crude oil and gas reserves, then the West can supply Iran with the fuel it needs. “But self-contained enrichment capacity, under no circumstances.”

“The Iranian intention is not to give up on the nuclear option,” he warned the members of Knesset. “They are aiming to maintain domestic enrichment capabilities, which from our perspective is unacceptable, because that is in effect the way to deceive and cheat, as they did in the past.”

Ya’alon also voiced skepticism over whether Syrian President Bashar Assad would actually comply with international demands to destroy his country’s chemical stockpiles.

“The test will be in the final results,” Ya’alon said. “Will he try to hide, will he try to conceal some sort of chemical capacity in his own hands — time will tell.”

While acknowledging a dip in the death toll in the country’s civil war – from 1,000 to 600 dead per week – he cast doubt over recent efforts to negotiate a peace between the sides. “I estimate that in the near future there will not be a political settlement within Syria, certainly not so long as Bashar Assad is engaged in his chemical weapons project.”

On the domestic front, he said, the defense establishment does not foresee a major escalation in violence in the short term, and on Tuesday, Ya’alon rejected the idea that a third intifada was brewing in the West Bank, though he noted the statistical rise in attacks in recent weeks.

He chided the Palestinian Authority for the lack of official condemnation of the attacks, and said that its silence, along with public support of such acts and ongoing incitement against Israel, allowed the violence to grow. “To our dismay, this has not abated during the political process,” he said.

Noting the gap between the IDF’s 2014 spending plan and the amount allocated in the state budget, Committee Chairman MK Avigdor Liberman announced that he would summon the prime minister and the finance minister to the committee in order to resolve the difference. At the same time, he declared, they would address the ongoing chaos in which home front authority is split between several government ministries and branches of the armed forces.

read more: