Ya'alon: Israel Sees Iran as a Problem, U.S. Sees Solution

Defense minster says he 'doesn't buy U.S. narrative on Iran'; also says Israel doesn't believe that an immediate strike on Iran is the best course of action, but that increasing pressure on the regime in Tehran should be top priority.

Ohad Zwigenberg

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Monday morning that the disagreement between Israel and the U.S. on the Iran issue stems from the fact Jerusalem sees the Islamic Republic as a regional problem, while Washington sees it as a solution.

Speaking to journalists during a press briefing at his office in Tel Aviv, Ya'alon said "the U.S. has a narrative on Iran that I don't buy," adding that the primary disagreement is about whether Iran is the problem or the solution.

According to Ya'alon, Israel and the U.S. disagreed in choosing between pursuing an agreement at this stage, or increasing pressure on the Iranians. "We claimed that ramping up pressure would bring the [Iranian] regime to a dilemma: Either the bomb, or survival," said Ya'alon, adding, "but the way negotiations were conducted allowed the Iranians to avoid that dilemma. Because it went that way, we still find ourselves divided [on the issue]."

The defense minister added that Israel doesn't believe that an immediate strike on Iran is the best course of action, but rather increasing pressure on the regime in Tehran should be top priority. "This pressure brought Iran into talks with America. But today there is no military threat on Iran, no diplomatic isolation, and there's been more talk of easing economic pressures since the interim agreement was signed. For all those reasons, Iran also has no fear of an internal uprising. The issue was decided among the West against Israel's wishes."

Ya'alon noted that Iran and the world powers are not headed for a breakdown, and that they will ultimately reach an agreement in the near future, even if they don't manage to do so by the deadline of June 30. According to Ya'alon, the emerging agreement is not good, and will only increase the danger posed by Iran. "The agreement will create a reality in which Iran is a nuclear threshold state, even if there is a 10-year freeze on certain parts of its nuclear program," added Ya'alon.

Ya'alon also said that Israel is concerned over numerous issues for which the emerging agreement offers no clear solution. Ya'alon noted that those issues include the military aspects of Iran's nuclear program, which it refuses to reveal, despite demands from the world powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Ya'alon expressed concern that the agreement will not force Iran to uncover its past efforts aimed at assembling a nuclear weapon, and that the levels of nuclear research and development that Iran will be able to reach over the next ten years is not yet clear enough, nor is the timing for easing of economic sanctions already in place.

 During the press briefing, Ya'alon clarified that despite the disagreements, "honest and direct channels remain open" between Israel and the U.S. for discussing the Iranian issue. Ya'alon says that Israel receives updates on the negotiations and that at no point was Israel "in the dark" about what was going on during talks. "We still want to influence the agreement as much as possible, be prepared for things to come and be ready to defend ourselves on our own," stressed Ya'alon. The defense minister also noted that after the nuclear deal is signed with Iran, Israel will begin talks with the U.S. regarding preserving the Israel Defense Forces' qualitative edge.