ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Ya’alon: Diplomacy with Iran must not be based on ‘wishful thinking’

Defense minister admits Israel at odds with White House’s approach to Tehran, derides Rouhani’s ‘sweet talk’

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (R) with soldiers during his visit to a training exercise of the Paratroopers Brigade in the Golan Heights, on October 2, 2013. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (R) with soldiers during his visit to a training exercise of the Paratroopers Brigade in the Golan Heights, on October 2, 2013. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Wednesday acknowledged there were differences between Israel and the US on Iran, and expressed concerns over Western attempts to engage in diplomacy with Tehran, warning against “wishful thinking” in the face of duplicitous Iranian “sweet talk.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday speech at the United Nations General Assembly, in which he warned the international community not to be taken in by the seemingly moderate diplomatic outreach of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, expressed exactly how Israel sees the threat from Iran, Ya’alon said.

“Some in the West, sadly, are tempted to give in to wishful thinking [on Iran],” he said, adding that it was Netanyahu’s duty to “display the accurate picture” on Iran. In that regard, he said, the prime minister’s speech was “successful.” The defense minister spoke at a Paratroopers Brigades exercise on the Golan Heights.

While Rouhani engages in “sweet talk,” Iran sponsors terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, provides “funding, equipment and guidance” to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and “invests in terror infrastructure” in Gaza — all while the “centrifuges continue to spin,” Ya’alon said. This, he said, was why the Iranian nuclear program “must be stopped by any means.”

The defense minister asserted that US-Israel relations were “excellent” despite that fact that “we… disagree on certain issues.” He highlighted the effectiveness of the sanctions on Iran, which have put the Islamic Republic “under heavy financial pressure, and this has brought them to talk with the US.”

Renewed engagement with Iran should not lead to a letting up of sanctions, he cautioned.

Ya’alon also addressed the situation in Syria, saying that President Bashar Assad had “decided to survive” by agreeing to an international program to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons, but only “time will tell” if the regime will truly destroy all of its capability. Israel hopes the program will succeed but Assad, Ya’alon said, is “suspect” and in the past had denied having chemical weapons at all.

In his United Nations address Tuesday, Netanyahu characterized Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who presented a moderate face to the West while Iran continued to develop nuclear weapons technology, sponsor terrorism, and execute dissidents.

The US, despite the tentative, renewed ties with Iran, should not ease up on economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Netanyahu urged, and Israel is prepared, if need be, to “defend itself” alone against “a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map.”

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