Iran does not want to purchase nuclear weapons from North Korea because it wants its own nuclear arsenal, top Blue and White MK and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon recently told the Magazine in an extensive interview.
Leading up to the launch of the English version of his book The Longer, Shorter Path (Gefen Publishing), Ya’alon touched on everything from Iran and Hamas to his concern with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – as he sees it – tearing down the state’s legal institutions.
Regarding Iran, the former defense minister said, “Iran is driving toward nuclear military independence, to obtain their own technology. They have been stubborn…. They could have already gotten [nuclear] missiles from North Korea or others. But they do not want to be dependent on anyone.”
Ya’alon said that if the Islamic Republic develops its own nuclear weapons, “it can achieve immunity from being attacked. Look at North Korea” having deterred even the US from striking it.
Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, in contrast, were both overthrown by military force, he said.
According to Ya’alon, Tehran views these outcomes as showing the vulnerability of any regime lacking nuclear weapons. This lesson, along with wanting to expand its regional influence, is why Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is so dedicated to achieving an independent nuclear weapons capability, he said.
In his book, Ya’alon compliments Netanyahu for mostly taking the correct path in standing up for Israel’s position, even to the Obama administration, of seeking to “stop all pathways for Iran to reach a nuclear capability.”
At the same time, he does criticize Netanyahu in his book for his specific methods of opposing the Obama administration’s policy on Iran, including setting up a speech in Congress behind the White House’s back.
In the book, Ya’alon writes that Israeli achievements on the Iran issue “might have been made without jumping in headfirst and causing a rift with the Democratic Party in the United States.”
One of the most important recent developments in the standoff with Iran was the January 3 killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, said Ya’alon.
Elaborating, Ya’alon said, “This ended [the era of the US] acting weakly and it drew a new line… it caused [Iran] turmoil and concern that they had gone too far [attacking US assets]…. Iran responded by violating the JCPOA more and more blatantly. Now the EU, also with help from [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson, is returning to Trump’s side” despite opposing his “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign until now.
Ya’alon said the key at this point was to rally the EU, Russia and China to a common line to get Iran to cease its violations of the JCPOA’s nuclear limitations.
He knows something about such negotiations, saying that around June 2010, he personally helped lead a delegation including then-Bank of Israel president Stanley Fischer and a contingent of top intelligence officials to help convince China to sign on to sanctions against Iran.
“I am convinced that if Khamenei confronts the dilemma” of backing down in the nuclear standoff versus survival, “he would choose survival.”
YA’ALON ADMITTED that the Khamenei regime was showing endurance even against the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, since it remains in control after 21 months of sanctions dating to May 2018, when Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“The current volume [of sanctions] is preventing Iran from rehabilitating itself. Their economy is going down, they have inflation. You can see people on the street asking questions” about why their economic situation is so poor, he said.
The top Blue and White official said, “They are gambling about whether he [Trump] will win [reelection], trying to drag things out until November. I don’t know if they can make it, even if people sometimes circumvent the sanctions. The sanctions are very significant.”
Ya’alon said that Trump should avoid sending signals of restraint to Iran, such as when, even after killing Soleimani, he implied that he would attack Iran only if it killed US citizens. He added that the US is unmatched in its power and that if it took limited action against the Islamic Republic, it would be hard for Khamenei to respond because of that power imbalance.
For a decade or more, top Israeli defense officials have debated whether an Israeli preemptive strike to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon would be necessary before it enriched enough weaponized uranium (earlier) or before it could deliver a nuclear missile (later).
Ya’alon declined to explicitly declare his view on that, or about reported disagreements in the Netanyahu 2011 cabinet (of which he was a member) about the issue. However, he said, “My philosophy and approach in life are that as long as you have another option, do not use military force.
“The military option is the last resort. Even now with Iran, we can get the regime to a fork in the road where they need to decide about their survival. It worked on them [to slow or freeze their nuclear program] in 2003 and in 2015…. I know it is not good to have to deal with Israel if I am Iran,” he stated.
Moving on to the security-diplomacy debate about whether giving Gaza some kind of port just off the coast could help establish a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, Ya’alon is mostly against the idea.
Variations on the proposal were put forth a few years ago by then-intelligence and transportation minister Israel Katz and then-director general of the Intelligence Ministry, Ram Ben Barak.
According to former deputy Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Aryeh Pellman, the purpose of a port would be to make a huge change to Gaza’s economic situation by much more fully opening it up to the world. He would insist that these ports be run by the
Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, and that they be off the coast, beyond Hamas’s territorial control.
Discussing his opposition, Ya’alon said, “In our present reality, also regarding the West Bank, people crossing the border require Israeli inspections. Not international inspectors and not Palestinian… otherwise they will get Iranian missiles. Not just parts, but finished products from Iran.”
He said it would be a dire mistake to yield border security to any outside party, noting, “This is our experience with the Philadelphi Corridor mistake. We thought we could count on Egypt” when Israel withdrew from the border in 2005. Instead, Hamas used the new border between Gaza and Egypt to smuggle massive amounts of new rockets.
Pivoting back to the Gaza port question, Ya’alon said he would sign off on it “if Israel can be there and do the inspections. But do you see this as possible? I don’t see it. You think Hamas would let Israel inspect everything in such a port crossing into Gaza?” he asked dismissively.
In other words, Ya’alon theoretically might support the idea but believes that Hamas, the PA and Israel would never reach an understanding on this.
Part of Ya’alon’s objection to the port also rests on his view that “there is no siege” on Gaza, since Israel permits any goods that cannot be used for warfare to get into Gaza coming through its own Ashdod port.
In other words, goods that Gaza seeks or wants to export can get to their destination in spite of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. They simply must stop in Ashdod along the way, instead of a port in Gaza run by Hamas.
“It was not happenstance that Bibi rejected the [Gaza port] idea despite all of the interviews given by [then-transportation minister] Israel Katz.”
Asked point blank if this meant he disagreed about the issue with MK and former Mossad deputy chief Ben Barak, who is part of his Blue and White Party, he said, “absolutely.”
In the book, Ya’alon takes readers through his path from the military to politics, starting with the memorable quote, “I knew that for my trip from the Kirya [military headquarters] to Jerusalem, I needed to have anti-nausea pills handy.”
He wrote that he was not ready to leave the public arena after his discharge from the IDF because he had a “sense of mission” to bring his experience and insights to the public sphere. He singled out his experience with the Palestinian issue and disillusionment following the Oslo Accords.
“I entered politics because of my awakening on the Palestinian issue as someone who believed in territorial compromise,” he told the Post. “As the head of military intelligence during the Oslo process, I fought [then-foreign minister and then-prime minister Shimon] Peres taking dangerous steps that could lead to an existential threat. As head of Central Command at the Camp David summit in 1999, I wrote that we must prepare for war in 2000, because I knew [then-Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat would start a war to prevent Camp David from moving forward. I am not a prophet, but I knew.”
YA’ALON SAID he joined Likud because he felt he shared a joint language with Netanyahu after voting for Likud for the first time in 1996.
“I don’t regret entering politics because I’ve had an impact, especially in seven security cabinets,” he said.
After the 2015 election, however, Ya’alon said he “saw something bad was happening.”
In the book, he wrote that Netanyahu became obsessed with fighting “elites” whom he decided were preventing him from ruling. Ya’alon decided that he did not want to be a part of attacks on the legal establishment and the media.
“I didn’t like it that in key posts he wanted only yes-men,” Ya’alon said.
There were disputes between Netanyahu and Ya’alon about policies and appointments and the case of Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot an incapacitated terrorist in Hebron. But Ya’alon stressed in both the book and the interview that the real reason for his May 2016 resignation was the so-called “Submarine Affair,” in which Israel allegedly purchased unnecessary and expensive submarines from a German company connected to at least one Netanyahu relative and to multiple top Netanyahu advisers.
“The people closest to the prime minister preferred their greed for money over the good of the country,” he lamented. “I only realized the extent of the involvement of the people closest to Netanyahu after I left office. I saw the pressure of the Prime Minister’s Office to break the agreements and not find an alternative to the deal with Germany. This was already bad business, but only later did I find out the Israeli side wanted the submarines to cost more to get a higher fee. After I stopped what I managed to stop, I saw that Netanyahu and I were no longer together.”
Looking at the current Likud leaders under Netanyahu, Ya’alon dismissed them as “dishrags.”
“I couldn’t be silent,” he said. “Netanyahu needed to leave a long time ago.”
Comparing the resignations of former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Olmert before their cases progressed, to Netanyahu remaining in office under indictment, Ya’alon lamented that norms have changed for the worse in how accepting the public is of corruption.
“The damage is that it’s normal that we have a prime minister indicted for corruption, and he attacks the system intended to protect us,” he said.
Ya’alon called his current party leader Benny Gantz “a realistic security hawk,” who, unlike Netanyahu, is clean.
Ahead of the September election, Blue and White announced that Ya’alon would be the party’s candidate for education minister in the next government. Last week, Gantz reiterated that the portfolio would be staying with the party, despite demands from potential coalition partners.
If Ya’alon does indeed become education minister, he will then be in charge of how the country’s children begin their own longer, shorter path.
Source » jpost