‘North Korea doesn’t give a damn about the West’

‘North Korea doesn’t give a damn about the West’

Yair Shamir, a likely minister in the next government, says Iran is watching the West's lack of response to Pyongyang's nuclear test

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Yair Shamir speaks during a conference of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) in Jerusalem on October 31, 2012. (photo credit: Oren Nahshon/Flash90)
Yair Shamir speaks during a conference of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) in Jerusalem on October 31, 2012. (photo credit: Oren Nahshon/Flash90)

News that North Korean conducted another nuclear test proves that the West’s approach to states unwilling to curb their nuclear ambitions has failed, Yair Shamir, an incoming Knesset member from Yisrael Beytenu who is likely to hold a senior position in the next government, said Tuesday.

Attempts to find compromise with the likes of North Korea and Iran were simply being exploited by those countries, Shamir told The Times of Israel.

“The nuclear test in North Korea this morning just emphasized that if the West will continue to look for compromise instead of looking for solutions, then those guys who are dealing with the West will take advantage of it,” he said. “Look at North Korea, they don’t give a sh*t. They’re doing what they want. And the Iranians will look at that as well.”

Shamir, who was speaking to The Times of Israel on the sidelines of a meeting with visiting US Jewish leaders, also urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to use President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel next month to strengthen the personal relationship between them, “because at the end of the day, it is also a matter of personalities. At the level of the people — the Israeli people, the America people — there’s nothing to be fixed, it’s a good relationship.”

In the wake of the Arab Spring, he also said, the White House has recognized that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the root cause of the region’s problems.

“He’s coming as a mature president, relaxed,” Shamir said of Obama. “I think he learned the lesson that the [core] issues of the Middle East [are not connected to] the Palestinian issue. Look at the Arab Spring and what happened around us, all these earthquakes here.”

Shamir, the son of the late Likud prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, is a former IAF pilot. He said he would be very pleased to serve as defense minister in the next government, but is widely expected to be given a senior domestic portfolio. He is the No. 2 to Avigdor Liberman on the Yisrael Beytenu list, and No. 4 on the joint Likud-Beytenu list; Liberman, the former foreign minister, will not sit in the cabinet while he’s fighting fraud and breach of trust charges.

In his remarks to the annual mission to Israel of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Shamir noted that the Israeli government has never accepted Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution, and added that he considered the creation of a Palestinian state to be impracticable due to geographic constraints.

“Netanyahu has expressed his view in his Bar-Ilan speech some years ago,” Yair told the Jerusalem gathering, referring to the prime minister’s 2009 speech accepting, in principle, a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel. “This speech never got the approval of his own party, never got the approval of the previous government. And he will have to seek approval for this plan from the coming Knesset or coalition.”

“We’ll see,” Shamir added. “It’s a democratic state.”

The freshman legislator said he entered politics mainly to focus on domestic issues because he sees little chance for a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the near future.

“I do believe that the issue with the Palestinians will stay with us for a longer time. There is no shortcut, there are no miracles, there is no patent that can solve the issue here,” Shamir told the visiting US Jewish leaders. “We are dealing for so many years with the Palestinian issue, put [in it] so many efforts, so much talent. And we ignored, neglected our society.”

“My position on two states: I don’t think this is doable,” Shamir emphasized. “It’s such a small area [of land] to deal with. But on the other hand, if the coalition decides that this is their agenda, this is their agenda. Personally, I don’t think it’s workable.”

The major affliction of the Middle East is not the absence of peace between Arabs and Israel but the lack of freedom and prosperity across the region, Shamir said. “The only island with democracy, with happiness, where you can see smiling people and prosperity, good education — it’s here. And why should we spoil this place?”

Asked about American and other international pressure on Israel, Shamir said Israel’s relationship with the US was important but “not as important as other interests of Israel.”

Shamir said peace with Israel’s neighbors was important for building a good home for the Jewish people. Constant warfare was not a good solution, he allowed. “But on the other hand [protecting Israel] is a necessity [in order] to reach this point.”

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