Despite the breakdown of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Iran remains the number one threat to Israel, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday.
Ya’alon told the Herzliya Conference, a security and defense assembly, that Israel fears that without the internal pressure caused by economic sanctions and a credible threat of military action, Iran will use negotiations with world powers to buy time to become a nuclear threshold state able to produce a nuclear weapon at a moment’s notice.
Iran and the P5+1 powers reached an interim agreement in November by which Iran limited parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions imposed by the West. Since January, the sides have been negotiating the terms of a final deal with world powers that would permanently regulate its nuclear program and open it up to international observers.
After the last round of negotiations in May yielded little progress, and with the July 20 deadline for reaching a final agreement fast approaching, US officials have been meeting with Iranian officials for direct, closed-door talks this week ahead of the next round with the rest of the P5+1 on June 16.
Ya’alon added that Iran’s sponsorship of terror in the Middle East and worldwide is also a significant threat, particularly to the stability of Arab states such as Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.
“From our point of view, this is the number one threat,” he said. “Hezbollah, the jihad and terror in the Golan Heights — Iran is behind it as well as the attacks worldwide.
“Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in Gaza wouldn’t exist without Iranian support in the form of money, weapons and training,” he added.
Iran is Hezbollah’s main benefactor and both have played a major role in turning the tide of the Syrian civil war in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad over the past year. Iran has provided funding and military training, while also instructing Hezbollah to enter the fray in mid-2013.
Speaking to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Ya’alon brushed off warnings that Israel is in danger of becoming an apartheid state and advised against any drastic steps, such as withdrawing from the West Bank.
“Time is not against us, as some claim,” he said. “Time is on the side of those who know how to use it, and we, as the current leadership, know how to use the time properly.”