Likud MK: Israeli decision on striking Iran by early 2014

Hanegbi: Israel should not seek, much less rely on, a presidential commitment to hit Tehran; PM in China warns nuclear Iran would ‘blackmail’ the world

Tzachi Hanegbi, left, with Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri in January. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Tzachi Hanegbi, left, with Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri in January. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi said Thursday that Israel will come to a final decision over whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities within a year.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the point of no return,” Hanegbi said. “Decisions should be made this year, no later than the beginning of 2014. And I believe that Israel’s future cannot be dependent on others, even on our best allies. We never asked American soldiers to fight for us. We fought for our existence since 1948. Luckily we have the US as our best ally. But we don’t want anybody to spill his blood for us. We have to confront Iran. It should be our mission and our responsibility.”

Hanegbi, speaking at a symposium at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, also said that Israel’s leaders could not rely on any American president’s commitment to strike Tehran on Israel’s behalf, and should not seek any such commitment.

A longtime lawmaker, Hanegbi previously served in a number of ministerial posts, including justice minister and intelligence and nuclear affairs minister.

“In respect to the possibility of militarily preventing Iran from getting its nuclear bomb, Israel and the United States work on different timetables. This is due largely to a difference in the capabilities of Israel and the United States, rather than a difference in the perceived capabilities of Iran. The United States can act effectively after Israel cannot,” he noted.

“So if sanctions and diplomatic efforts continue to prove ineffective and the only options left on the table are containment or the use of force, should Israel place its fate in the hands of the United States? Can Israel be assured that its closest ally will act in due time to remove the nuclear threat? “My answer is no. Such assurance can be given by no president and can be demanded by no prime minister. Israel does not and should not expect such a commitment.”

Hanegbi went on: “Israel’s bond with the United States is unbreakable. And the threat posed to our nations by a nuclear Iran is mutual. But at the end of the day, we are each beholden to our own national security policies and priorities. Just as no president can commit to military action unconditional of (sic) his own nation’s best interest, so can no prime minister forsake his country’s inherent right of self defense.

“President Barack Obama’s successful visit to Israel reiterated that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself against any threat,” he said. “And all of us in Israel thank the president and appreciate this message of support.”

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Chinese President Xi Jinping that a nuclear Iran would blackmail the world by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz at will, thereby stopping the oil flow to countries across the globe.

Netanyahu mostly focused on bi-lateral issues during his trip to China, but analysts say convincing Beijing to pull back from its support of Iran was also one of his goals.

In Washington, Hanegbi also backed US efforts to broker peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Hanegbi said that “good conditions” had been created for Israel to progress in peace negotiations, but stressed that Israel will not return to its 1967 borders.

Speaking on behalf of an Arab League delegation to Washington last Monday, Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani called for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that would be based on Israel’s lines before the 1967 Six-Day War, though with minor land swaps, a significant softening of the body’s stance.

The Arab League’s statement was welcomed by a number of Israeli officials, who called to seize the opportunity and revive negotiations as soon as possible.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit the region later this month in a new round of shuttle diplomacy. He has visited three times since taking office two months ago.

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