Based on his evaluation that the United States isn’t going to do anything to frustrate the Iranian nuclear program, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday he’s changed his mind and now leans toward supporting unilateral Israeli action against Iran.
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“We had thought the ones who should lead the campaign against Iran is the United States,” said Ya’alon, speaking during an event at Tel Aviv University. “But at some stage the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better.”
If Israel had hoped others would do the job for it, this is not about to happen, Ya’alon said: “Therefore, on this matter, we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves.”
His words attest to a sea-change in his attitude regarding how Israel should contend with the Iranian nuclear program. Under the previous government, Ya’alon had led the opposition in the security cabinet to a solo Israeli attack on Iran, even exchanging sharp words on the issue with the defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak. Ya’alon had taken the position that “the work of righteous men shall be done by others” – meaning the United States should be the one to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Evidently, he no longer believes this is going to happen, and is nearing the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who signals the belief that Israel should be behaving as though it’s on its own, right now.
Ya’alon was sharply critical on Monday of Washington’s behavior regarding Iran, even hinting that U.S. President Barack Obama would prefer to pass the hot potato to his successor at the White House. “People know that Iran cheats,” Ya’alon said. “But comfortable Westerners prefer to put off confrontation. If possible, to next year, or the next president. But in the end, it will blow up.”
From Iran being “on its knees” thanks to economic pressure and onerous diplomatic isolation, from fearing an internal eruption and military threat, Iran cleverly led a “smile offensive,” Ya’alon said, extracting itself from crisis.
“There have been delays in the nuclear program, but the [interim] agreement [signed between Iran and the superpowers in Geneva] is very convenient for the Iranians,” Ya’alon said. “They’re settling down at the threshold and can decide when to make the breakthrough to a nuclear bomb.”
Ya’alon’s criticism of Obama’s foreign policy didn’t stop with Iran. The minister repeated a number of times during his address that Washington has been showing weakness everywhere in the world. “The moderate Sunni camp in the area expected the United States to support it, and to be firm, like Russia’s support for the Shi’ite axis,” Ya’alon said. “I heard voices of disappointment in the region. I was in Singapore and heard disappointment about China getting stronger and the U.S. getting weaker. Look what’s happening in Ukraine, where the United States is demonstrating weakness, unfortunately.”
If the American government persists in demonstrating weakness on the international front, the United States’ own national security will be badly damaged, Ya’alon said. “If you sit and wait at home, the terrorism will come again,” he said. “Even if you hunker down, it will come. This is a war of civilizations. If your image is feebleness, it doesn’t pay in the world. Nobody will replace the United States as global policeman. I hope the United States comes to its senses. If it doesn’t, it will challenge the world order, and the United States is the one that will suffer.”
Discussing the relations between Israel and the United States on the security and diplomatic fronts, Ya’alon said that U.S. military aid to Israel needs to be “seen in proportion”.
“It isn’t a favor America is doing, it’s in their interest,” he said. Israel not only takes from Washington, the minister added — it also gives. “They get quality intelligence and technology,” he said. “We invented Iron Dome. The wings of the F-35 stealth fighter – we invented. We invented the Arrow,” an anti-ballistic missile.
Ya’alon also took aim at the Israeli left, implying that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was encouraging international elements to apply pressure to Israel. “We have a serious problem of self-accusation,” he said. “There are circles where Israelis and Arabs meet. The Arabs accuse the Jews and the Jews accuse themselves.”
Hinting plainly at Livni, Ya’alon said, “There are elements within the government that have lost their equilibrium, and blame us” for the failure of negotiations with the Palestinians. “They say, why are we building? [Settlements.] Why don’t we give more? Then it becomes very convenient for everybody outside to pounce on us. We have too much self-accusation, which attracts fire, and causes people to press us and demand concessions.”