‘If diplomacy with Iran won’t work, we’ll do the job alone,’ says deputy FM

Ze’ev Elkin warns Israel prepared for preemptive strike if need be; Hanegbi cites ‘hardening of positions’ in PM’s speech

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Immigration Minister Ze'ev Elkin. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Immigration Minister Ze'ev Elkin. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

NEW YORK — Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said Tuesday that Israel believes the Iranian nuclear dispute could be solved diplomatically, but asserted Jerusalem would not hesitate to strike if it felt the international community’s efforts to curb the regime’s reach for an atomic bomb failed to deliver results.

“The government of Israel believes that there is the possibility to solve the problem through diplomatic means. However — it won’t be done through smiles and easing the pressure. Rather, the only way that works is a tightening of sanctions in addition to a real military threat,” Elkin (Likud) told The Times of Israel on the sidelines of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dramatic speech at the United Nations on Tuesday.

During his half-hour address, the prime minister vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, if need be by launching a preemptive strike at the regime’s nuclear facilities. “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone,” he said.

Elkin said that Netanyahu’s “standing alone” comment meant that Israel is prepared to do the job the world is not prepared to do.

“That means two very simple things: one, that the State of Israel will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. We prefer for this problem to be solved through diplomatic means by the international community. But if there will be no choice, and the world doesn’t do its work, then Israel will have to do the job. Secondly, the prime minister said that for diplomacy to work, two conditions must be met: the pressure [on Iran] will have to stay strong and the sanctions won’t be reduced. Because it works.”

“There [also] needs to be a real military threat, alongside the diplomatic option,” the deputy foreign minister continued. “It worked for Syria, it could perhaps work for Iran. If the world doesn’t place the military option clearly enough before the Iranians, then it is possible the State of Israel will be the one to do it.”

Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, also speaking to The Times of Israel near the UN headquarters in Manhattan Tuesday, said Netanyahu’s vow to stand alone was the speech’s “most dramatic part, because it marked the first time this was said in public, and not in private.”

Hanegbi, who is considered close to the prime minister, also noted that Netanyahu’s speech included a “hardening of positions” regarding Jerusalem’s demands toward Iran, as for the first time he required that Iran close its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, as well as its facilities at Qom and Arak.

Any “meaningful” diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff would require four steps, Netanyahu had said: “First, cease all uranium enrichment… Second, remove from Iran’s territory the stockpiles of enriched uranium. Third, dismantle the infrastructure for nuclear breakout capability, including the underground facility at Qom and the advanced centrifuges in Natanz. And, four, stop all work at the heavy water reactor in Arak aimed at the production of plutonium.”

Previously, his four stated conditions had included closure of the Qom and Arak facilities, but Tuesday’s speech for the first time included the demand to close Natanz as well. “Apparently, what can be done in Qom can also be done in all other facilities,” said Hanegbi.

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