Yachimovich: Iran is not an existential threat

Reacting to Netanyahu’s speech, Israeli opposition leader rails against PM’s ‘isolationism,’ dearth of references to peace process

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel, opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich asserted Tuesday in reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fiery speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

“Iran is not dangerous to our very existence; there are many other threats and we know how to deal with them,” the Labor MK told Walla.

Yachimovich said there was no dispute between her and the prime minster regarding the need to prevent uranium enrichment in Iran.

But she said she believed opposing the US’s attempts to negotiate with Tehran would not help in achieving that goal.

“The question is, what’s the best and most effective way to do this,” Yachimovich said. “Is it by way of the isolationism displayed by the prime minister in front of the world? I think not.”

“The correct way is to join hands with our main ally, the United States, which has committed itself to us time and again, and has even threatened [Iran] with a military option,” the Labor Party leader said.

“It would have been better to go with Obama, and not to remain ‘a people that dwells alone,'” Yachimovich concluded.

Fellow Labor MK Issac Herzog echoed Yachimovich’s statements, adding that the prime minister had not dealt well with recent Iranian overtures toward Washington.

“The prime minister did not address the evolving and ever-changing environment, but instead provided a solution to a scenario of Iranian deception,” Herzog said. “He did not address the possibility, even if it it is slight, of an actual strategic change in Iran.”

Meretz head MK Zahava Gal-on also criticized Netanyahu’s speech, saying the prime minister should have taken advantage of the fact that sanctions against Iran have not yet been lifted and given diplomatic efforts a chance.

“Netanyahu has once again put himself in the position of the reproaching preacher,” she said. “Though the Iranian nuclear program was not initiated for peaceful purposes, Netanyahu should welcome the American and international effort to negotiate on nuclear disarmament while sanctions on Iran are still strong, and give them a chance,” she said.

Gal-On added that Netanyahu did not stress enough that Iran’s nuclear aspirations were a threat to world stability, and instead portrayed the matter as one of that was of concern solely to Israel.

“The speech shows make that the prime minister’s worldview fails on two main counts: He thinks Iran is only Israel’s problem, and he thinks it is Israel’s only problem… The main problem is Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s scant reference to the issue… serves as proof that he has not crossed the Rubicon toward two states for two peoples,” she said.

Meanwhile, parliamentarians  in Netanyahu’s Likud party largely embraced the speech, and stressed that an unwavering stance against Iran was necessary despite Tehran’s so-called charm offensive at the UN last week.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, speaking to Fox News after the speech, said Israel would not buy into Iran’s “sweet talk.”

“[Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani] is a master in buying time, and he is playing with the West. Now that he’s back in Iran, the real issue is what is he going to do with the reactors, the centrifuges,” Danon said.

Danon added that Israel ”will keep all options on the table. We will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves.”

MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) said he was reassured by Netanyahu’s commitment to stand up to Iran even in the face of international condemnation.

“I welcome and reinforce Netanyahu’s affirmation that Israel will act against the Iranian threat even if it has to do so alone,” Feiglin said. “The time for talk is over.”

Feiglin added that it was clear the US did not intend to strike Iran, and said Netanyahu would be judged in the future by the course of action he would take to eliminate the possibility of Iran achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

Netanyahu must decide whether he will go down in history like Menachem Begin, who he said prevented an Iraqi nuclear weapon by bombing the Osiraq reactor in 1981, “or as the Israeli leader under whose watch the Iranian ayatollahs managed to lay their hands on nuclear weapons.”

Shas MK Eli Yishai also praised Netanyahu’s speech, saying that the prime minister’s statements were reflective of the opinion of Israeli society at large.

“The body was the body of the prime minister, but the voice was that of all of Israel,” he said.

Yishai added that he hoped Netanyahu’s words would serve as a wake-up call for the world’s nations and prompt the international community to take action against the Iranian regime.

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