Liberman: West ‘stands down’ as Iran ‘races’ toward bomb

Former FM also claims West Bank clashes are directed by the Palestinian leadership in lead-up to Obama’s visit to the region

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Avigdor Liberman, February 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
Avigdor Liberman, February 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

The world has been retreating in the face of Iran’s rush toward nuclear weapons capability, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chair Avigdor Liberman said Thursday.

Talks held this week in Kazakhstan between Iran and world powers revealed “a great compromise” on the part of the West and “a hardening of stances” from Tehran, Liberman told Army Radio, noting he spoke for himself and not the government. “The Iranians are racing toward the bomb and the powers are withdrawing and looking for a way to contain it.”

Liberman decried a proposal to ease sanctions against Iran if it drastically slowed or stopped its uranium enrichment program.

“It’s clear to everyone that the Iranians don’t intend to halt their efforts to reach nuclear capability,” he said. “The reactors at Parchin and other locations are working at full steam without any [International Atomic Energy Agency] observer being allowed to visit.”

The former foreign minister pointed to the example of North Korea, which continues to conduct nuclear experiments despite tough international sanctions.

“At the end of the day, the enlightened world doesn’t want to confront extremists,” he said. “It prefers to stand down and search for complex diplomatic solutions instead of striving for victory and teaching them a lesson once and for all.”

Asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s November speech at the UN, in which he said the spring of 2013 could mark the last chance to stop Iran from reaching nuclear weapons capacity, Liberman said, “There is no debate regarding the timeline Iran is on, but there are different opinions when it comes to deciding on the best course of action.”

US President Barack Obama, when he arrives in Israel next month for a state visit, would be addressing a variety of issues, Liberman said, refusing to say whether a military strike on Iran would be a central topic of discussion.

“[Iran] isn’t an Israeli challenge, it’s a challenge for the whole world. Iran acts on all continents in a way that threatens and destabilizes the world. We hope [other countries] not only understand this, but also act accordingly,” he said.

Asked about the recent flareup of violence in the West Bank, Liberman, the head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, said the Palestinian leadership was encouraging the clashes ahead of Obama’s visit.

Unrest in the West Bank following the death of Palestinian inmate Arafat Jaradat in an Israeli prison over the weekend wasn’t spontaneous, as Palestinians claimed, but rather was orchestrated by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Liberman said.

After Jaradat died, Israel invited the prisoner’s family and a Palestinian pathologist to see the body and take part in the investigation, he added, dismissing claims that the inmate was tortured to death. Israel says Jaradat died of a heart attack.

“We need to manage the conflict. Anyone who talks about ending it and reaching a solution in the next year or two is at best naïve,” Liberman said, reiterating his oft-repeated outlook on the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “But we live here alongside the Palestinians, and that needs to be addressed.”

When the Palestinian Authority calls for the release of “their children” from Israeli jails, “they don’t mention that those ‘children’ are people who murdered families in cold blood,” he added.

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