Iran is “far from reaching the point of no return,” and any action that Israel may or may not need to take to thwart its nuclear drive is still a long way away, former prime minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday.
All of the public talk, debate and discussions concerning a possible Israeli strike on Iran “contribute nothing to our ability to deal with the threat that Iran poses for Israel,” he added, while stressing that he shared the sense that Israel “cannot be reconciled to a nuclear Iran.”
Speaking on Sunday to students at the Ono Academic College in Kiryat Ono, Olmert criticized the current government’s conduct regarding the possibility of an attack on Iran. “The current situation does not necessitate Israeli action,” Olmert said. “Not now or anytime soon.”
Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that sanctions have not shifted the Iranian nuclear drive “one iota,” and media reports over the weekend suggested that he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were close to making a decision to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told the cabinet, “All the threats directed at the home front are dwarfed by another threat of a different size and scope. And so I say again: Iran must not be allowed to attain nuclear weapons.”
Also Sunday, however, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said there was still time for sanctions to have a substantive impact.
Olmert took issue with the manner in which the debate over thwarting Iran has been conducted. “I know of no time in Israel’s history,” Olmert said, “that issues so sensitive and so secret have been addressed so publicly while revealing information that… causing serious damage to Israel’s vital interests.”
The constant public discussion has only served “to burden us, to isolate us, and to disgust us while giving us nothing to help us in dealing” with the situation, he said.
Olmert intimated that an Israeli strike on a Syrian reactor in 2007 had been carried out without any such attendant talk — “before, during or after.”
Olmert, who in mid-July was acquitted of two out of three major criminal charges against him, has denied any plans in the foreseeable future to re-enter politics, despite widespread speculation that he might attempt to once again lead an Israeli centrist party. After Olmert stepped down as prime minister to fight corruption allegations, Netanyahu won the 2009 elections and succeeded him.
“If the international community does not do what it is expected to do, then Israel will have no choice but to act alone,” Olmert said Sunday. “I do not rule out the possibility that we may have to make such a decision, but that is not the situation today.”
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