Israel will not launch an attack on Iran to prevent its development of a nuclear bomb, an Israeli minister predicted here Wednesday.
“We are not going to volunteer to solve the problem for the world and then have the world come [down] against us,” Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel’s minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, told The Jewish Week. Ben-Eliezer is a former defense minister.
“No more – finished,” he added, alluding to the worldwide criticism Israel received in 1981 after Israeli bombs destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.
An Israeli spokesman said later, however, that Israeli military action to prevent Iran from going nuclear “is still an option.” Israel has long maintained that it would never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons. It has also insisted that a nuclear Iran is a world problem, not Israel’s alone.
Ben-Eliezer said the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by Western nations and the United Nations to pressure it into halting its nuclear weapons program have been ineffective because some 3,500 companies – mostly in Europe -- were violating them. The only way to pressure Iran, he said, is to impose an air, land and sea economic boycott of Iran.
Otherwise, he said, “We estimate that if the world continues to let him move as he is, within two to three years time he will have the capacity to produce his first nuclear bomb,” he said, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Although everyone says he won’t do it, I wouldn’t be surprised if [one day] we find out he did it already. …
“The issue of Iran should bother the Americans as much as it does Israel. America should understand it is their own responsibility to guarantee stability in the Middle East -- not ours. We won’t do that. Seventy-two percent of the world’s oil is there. I have no doubt that if [the blockade of Iran] lasted one year,” the development of the bomb would stop.
“The situation in Iran is not good now,” Ben-Eliezer pointed out.
He said that a strict blockade of Iran “in and out” would cause the Iranian people to overthrow the Islamic regime in power.
“They are human beings and I know what is happening inside their society – they are not happy. How long can they last with a dictator who has made a joke out of [the Iranian people]?”
Ben-Eliezer’s call for a blockade of Iran echoed those made earlier this month by Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who said that a naval blockade of Iran should be imposed in two to six months.
“We’ll need more than talk and sanctions,” Steinitz told a meeting here of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. “It’s high time the West and the United States gave Iran a deadline to change its behavior. … We need a clear deadline for Iran to become open for inspection, otherwise the ramifications should be like you did with Cuba in 1962. It kept the U.S. from going to war. It’s time for clear messages and deadlines.”
A naval blockade of Iran is reportedly one course of action the U.S. has considered. It was reportedly suggested in 2008 by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during a visit to Washington. And proposed legislation that would have urged President George W. Bush to take steps to prevent Iran from importing any refined petroleum products was shelved for fear it could provoke a war.
Ben-Eliezer, who was here to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the American-Israel Free Trade Agreement, said he believes “the main problem the world is facing now is the stability of the Middle East.”
“It’s been shaking more since Ahmadinejad took over, and very soon [Iran] will be at nuclear capacity,” he said. “We would then be talking of a new world order in that part of the world. … [Iran] is now in the southern part of Iraq and will swallow Basra [a Shiite city in the south] when the U.S. leaves Iraq. All of Iraq’s oil is in the south,” which will enable Iran to exert its influence over the entire country.
Asked about declarations from Israeli leaders that Israel would never permit a nuclear Iran, Ben-Eliezer repeated: “Israel should not volunteer to solve the problems of the world. … After we solved it, the whole world would be against Israel. No more; it’s finished. I can’t foresee Israel deciding one day to do it alone. This is a world threat. [Ahmadinejad] has decided to destroy Israel and the Zionist movement and to ignore the Holocaust. … When you have a kind of a crazy man, we can’t be confident he has control of himself. God forbid what will happen.”
When asked how Israel would deal with a nuclear Iran, Ben-Eliezer replied: “Israel will overcome because there is no other place to go. Because we had no water, we had to be the best in agriculture. Because we have no oil, we had to become the best in renewables and making use of the sun. You have to be the best in order to exist.”
Regarding the failure to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Ben-Eliezer said the Obama administration is too busy with next month’s elections to deal with the issue now. But he said that after the election, he expects the issue to be back on the front burner.
“Everyone knows that a leadership decision is needed and we’re playing games talking about renewing [a settlement building] freeze. The issue is not the freeze. We had a freeze for 10 months. What will another two months accomplish? The issues are borders, Jerusalem, the refugees, the security of Israel -- which is No. 1 – and an end of conflict. Once we sign an agreement on those issues, we will say take your land and build your country.”
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