Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, a former top US negotiator on Holocaust-related compensation who today co-chairs the Jewish People Policy Institute, has bemoaned the inadequate level of trust between Israel and the US on tackling Iran’s nuclear drive, and firmly urged Israel not to act unilaterally to thwart Tehran.
In an interview with The Times of Israel, Eizenstat, who participated in Shimon Peres’s recent Presidential Conference and gave the keynote address at last week’s B’nai B’rith journalism awards ceremony, said Israel had to give more time for sanctions to play out. “The EU sanctions, that is the oil sanctions, [only came into force on] July 1… While all this is going on, for Israel to act unilaterally in any way, I think would be a serious mistake.”
Eizenstat, who served as ambassador to the European Union and deputy Treasury secretary under president Bill Clinton, stressed that Israel was not isolated in facing off against Iran, but rather that there was “an extraordinary international coalition” that shared the determination to ensure Iran could not attain nuclear weapons. “At the end of the day, Israel is a country with 7 million people,” he said, “and there are limits to what a country with 7 million people can do when you’ve got an international coalition of hundreds of millions of people on your side trying to achieve the same result.”
Eizenstat said Israel’s threat to resort to military action had been extremely effective in helping produce bolstered sanctions. “But that lever is lost once you’ve used it,” he noted.
Citing what he said were comments made at the Presidential Conference by both former chief of the IDF General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former senior US official Dennis Ross, to the effect that “there’s no military solution,” Eizenstat elaborated: “The Iranians’ nuclear program is dispersed, we know part of it is underground. But even if it could somehow be surgically [eliminated] — and it can’t be one airstrike, it has to be sustained airstrikes going over very difficult air space — even if that could be done, what Ashkenazi and Dennis were saying was they [the Iranians] have the [technical nuclear] knowledge. You can’t take that out of their head. [After an attack,] they would then have the justification of saying, ‘Well, this is why we do need a nuclear weapon.’ And they would try to rebuild. And you would still need sanctions and diplomacy.”
Eizenstat said he was disappointed by the lack of substantive progress at the P5+1 negotiations with Iran to date, but that the regime’s very presence at the talks underlined its economic concerns. He said he was absolutely certain that the Iranian regime regarded its own survival as its prime concern, and of far more importance than a desire to eliminate Israel.
Nonetheless, he said, if it proved impossible to schedule a further round of ministerial level talks, or if a next round also proved unproductive, “then I think you have a very different situation.”
Asked whether he could then envisage the United States, at the head of an international coalition, intervening militarily, Eizenstat said: “Well, I don’t want to say militarily. I want to say ‘intervene with other capabilities.’”