Israel's Defense Minister: Lausanne Talks on Iran Won't Go Anywhere

And that's a good thing, says Moshe Ya'alon, since Tehran should not be left with any enrichment capacity.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon in the southern city of Sderot during the Gaza war, June 30, 2014.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon in the southern city of Sderot during the Gaza war, June 30, 2014.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon does not expect the Lausanne talks on Iran's nuclear program to lead to an accord with Tehran, he told reporters Wednesday.

Israel's defense establishment sees the negotiations in the Swiss city as having brought the two sides closer to some degree, but not to the point where an agreement will be signed, he said. Although he does not think the talks between Iran and six world powers will blow up altogether, Ya’alon said the disputes that have come to the fore in the past few days reflect the gaps that still remain between the two parties’ positions.

"Certainly there will be a statement, perhaps a signed paper, but this document will only be a statement of intentions — an attempt to conclude this round somehow, without a total breakdown, but also without the parties being fully satisfied,” he said. “Looking at the agreement overall — it’s a bad deal for the West. Iran should not be left with any self-enrichment capacity.”

Iran's breakout time to the bomb would be less than a year if Iran is left with the ability to develop advanced centrifuges, Ya’alon said, adding that the West would be better off not signing any deal than signing a “bad deal." Only diplomatic isolation and increasing economic sanctions, combined with the military option of a strike on Iran, will bring the Iranian regime to the “dilemma of a bomb versus survival,” he added.

“A deal that grants legitimacy to an aggressive regime, that welcomes it into the family of nations, that removes limitations on it — better to keep up the pressure, the sanctions, the threats against the regime than to give it legitimacy that bestows immunity upon it to a great degree,” said Ya'alon. “Just granting legitimacy to Iran's being on the nuclear threshold is problematic. The question of proliferation could break out here, and then we’ll see nuclear chaos in the Middle East.”

He said one effect of such a deal could be to cause other countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, to seek nuclear weapons of their own.

Asked about the possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iran, Ya’alon said: “It would be nice if others would do the job for us, but we want to be ready to act, in the spirit of ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’”

The issues still being disputed by Iran and the six world powers include the time frame of the agreement, Iran’s ability to develop advanced centrifuges that would shorten the enrichment process, and the quantity of enriched materiel that could remain in Iran’s possession and whether it must be shipped out of the country or not, Ya'alon said. He added that the issue of Iran's Fordo facility, the military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program and the inspection mechanism that would be put in place once an agreement is signed are also undecided. Nor is there full agreement or clarity yet regarding how quickly UN sanctions would be lifted.

The defense minister also talked about the situation in Gaza, saying Hamas is “currently doing a good job of enforcing the cease-fire.” At the same time, Israel says Hamas is continuing to build up its capabilities by manufacturing rockets in Gaza and digging tunnels. Ya'alon said security forces have not found new tunnels on the Israeli side of the border but are prepared for the prospect, adding that Hamas' rocket supply has not reached pre-Operation Protective Edge levels.

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