Israel Never Dallied on Iran Nukes, Says Netanyahu

National security adviser Uzi Arad told Haaretz past governments focused on other issues at expense of Iran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected criticism by his national security adviser, Uzi Arad, that past Israeli governments lagged in their efforts to curb the Iranian threat.

"The prime minister is not willing to discuss directly the way in which Israel governments have dealt with the Iranian threat - neither in the past nor the present," Netanyahu's bureau said in a statement, referring to Arad's comments in an interview with Haaretz published Friday.

"However, the prime minister knows that the subject of Iran has topped the agenda of every Israeli government," said the statement. "[Netanyahu] appreciates the important contributions they have made on this matter over the years, particularly those made by [Mossad chief] Meir Dagan."

Arad, who also held the post of national security adviser in Netanyahu's first government, told Haaretz that past Israeli governments focused their efforts on other issues at the expense of dealing properly with the Iranian threat.

"The leadership scattered its efforts and resources instead of concentrating them," he said. "It preoccupied itself with other issues, such as the disengagement and Annapolis... it did not home in on the main issue - Iran."

Arad criticized the preceding governments for what he called a "gross failure" on the issue and a "waste of political assets".

"Between 2003 and 2007, it was far easier to contain Iran. The Iranian program was lagging behind. American power was more blatant. Various big powers were inclined to cooperate. Iran was more cautious and more vulnerable. But what preoccupied us in 2005? The disengagement. And what preoccupied us in 2007? Annapolis," he said.

PM reiterates support for demilitarized Palestinian state

Netanyahu also responded to Arad's skepticism toward the peace process with the Palestinians, who he said were apparently not ready to make the historic moves necessary for an accord.

"The prime minister stands by, with the greatest of seriousness and responsibility, what he said on the subject in his speech at Bar Ilan university," the prime minister's bureau said.

During the speech, which Netanyahu delivered a month ago, the premier declared support for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state, on the condition that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The statement added: "The prime minister has repeated this consistent position on many occasions since then, including in his meetings with senior officials in Europe and Israel."

In Friday's interview, Arad said: "I don't see among the Palestinians a process of truly drawing closer to acceptance of Israel and peace with Israel. I also do not see a Palestinian leadership or a Palestinian regime but a disorderly constellation of forces and factions."