Ex-defense minister: Israel can’t eliminate Iran threat

Netanyahu’s strategy failed, says Mofaz, and a strike could provoke a regional war

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Shaul Mofaz (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Shaul Mofaz (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Israel’s military is not capable of eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat entirely, a former defense minister and chief of staff said Thursday.

Kadima party chairman MK Shaul Mofaz, a former IDF chief of staff, acknowledged during an event Thursday morning at the Gordon College of Education in Haifa that the IDF had the ability to delay the program, but would likely face a two-front war while doing so.

Israel should still prepare its forces in case a military strike became necessary, but warned that “Israel could spark a regional war, and therefore we must weigh this seriously.”

He criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy on Iran. “The Israeli strategy has failed and a different strategy could have been chosen. Netanyahu is fighting a losing battle, and it would have been better to work quietly to bring the Americans on board with our strategy and our red lines,” Mofaz said.

Also Thursday, a day after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told tens of thousands of Basij militiamen that “Israel is the sinister, unclean, rabid dog of the region,” Deputy Knesset Speaker Hilik Bar reprimanded the Americans and the EU for their failure to emphatically denounce Khamenei’s statement.

“Khamenei’s words clearly recalled the racist incitement against Jews, blacks, and others by the Nazis in the 1930s,” wrote Bar in a scathing letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “It is sad and grave that we do not hear a firm condemnation from you.”

“A logical compromise is made with logical people and not with racist, bloodthirsty leaders who want to destroy a democratic UN member state…,” added the MK, who is also the head of the Lobby for the Promotion of a Solution for the Israeli-Arab Conflict. “It will not be easy to advance peace among the Israeli public when it feels attacked and vulnerable and does not merit the protection of its closest allies.”

A senior American official at the talks on Wednesday refrained from condemning the Iranian spiritual leader’s comments, but remarked that they were “uncomfortable” to hear and recalled “the decades of mistrust” between Tehran and Washington.

“I call upon and even demand from you to issue a condemnation and to stand up against these dark, inciting, and racist statements that came from Iran yesterday, and it would best be done sooner rather than later,” wrote Bar.

Iran is hoping to negotiate an easing of sanctions placed on the country by the West, which hopes to force it to roll back its nuclear program.

The latest round of international negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 powers (the permanent members of the US Security Council plus Germany) began on Wednesday, hours after Khamenei’s statements about Israel.

Khamenei said Europe felt pressed to make concessions to Zionists “because of their economic network,” but said the “Zionist entity” was doomed to collapse, and that its people “should not be called humans,” according to a Channel 2 translation of his comments.

Also Thursday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Khamenei, “someone who uses the words of Goebbels and Hitler when talking about the Jews,” has shown that Iran “certainly does not aim to acquire nuclear power for peaceful purposes.”

Liberman called on the representatives of the P5+1 countries to “pay attention” to Khamenei’s words. ”The speech by Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, is the true face of the Iranian regime, not the false representation that [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani and his people are showing the world,” Liberman said.

A round of meetings earlier in November nearly ended with the inking of an interim deal — under which Iran would have frozen part of its program in exchange for an easing of non-core sanctions — despite Israel’s strong objection to any agreement that leaves Iran with the ability to enrich uranium and produce plutonium. The deal on the table reportedly allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium to 3.5 percent during the six-month interim period during which a full deal would be sought.

French objections to the interim terms, under which Iran would also have been permitted to continue work on its Arak heavy water facility, apparently scuppered that agreement 10 days ago.

Ilan Ben-Zion contributed to this report. 

Most Popular
read more: