May 13, 2014—Washington -- Cooperation between the United States and Israel on “security, and especially intelligence, is better than ever,” Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence, told the AJC Global Forum. “In the last few years, under the Obama Administration, the relations have become so close, so intimate, for the benefit of both sides.“
Speaking to an audience of some 2,000 people from across the nation and more than 70 countries, Steinitz declared that the AJC gathering demonstrates that 70 years after the Holocaust “the Jewish people are alive and kicking.”
The Israeli Cabinet minister focused his remarks on the Iranian nuclear threat, the peace process, and Israel’s “remarkable” achievements since independence in 1948.
Steinitz stressed that despite occasional differences of opinion between Israel and the U.S., the two allies are engaged in an “ongoing dialogue” over how to get Iran to give up its nuclear program. He agreed wholeheartedly with President Obama’s statement that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
Before the Israeli minister spoke, Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a video message from Jerusalem in which he emphatically told the AJC Global Forum that the Iranian nuclear threat is the “main” agenda item, and urged the global Jewish advocacy organization to continue its efforts to press for maximum pressure on Iran to dismantle its centrifuges.
Steinitz said that Israel insists on preventing Iran not just from developing a bomb, but from attaining the capability to do so, with complete transparency and international inspections in place. However, if the current negotiations do not attain these goals and Iran is allowed to keep its centrifuges and heavy water reactor, it would remain “a threshold nuclear power,” poised to quickly develop a bomb.
Steinitz cited the example of North Korea, which had agreed to freeze its nuclear program in 2003, and a few years later announced it had a bomb. He contrasted North Korea with Libya, whose infrastructure was dismantled, a much more secure option.
Furthermore, Iran’s neighbors, feeling threatened, would also launch nuclear programs, endangering the stability of the entire region. Should no satisfactory agreement be reached in the current P5 plus 1 talks with Iran, Steinitz reminded the audience, “We keep our right of self-defense.”
Looking back at Israel’s 66-year history, he called it “a kind of miracle” that in the face of the constant threat of terrorist attack and the need to allocate much of its budget to defense, Israel had over the past three decades alone more than doubled its population, developed its “strong, vibrant, hi-tech economy” to qualify for entrance into the OECD, and enhanced its international status by establishing relations with such major powers as China, India and Russia. “The country is flourishing and growing decade after decade,” he said.
“We are eager to make peace,” said Steinitz. He noted that 70-80 percent of Israelis are willing to cede territory in order to attain “genuine peace and real security” side-by-side with a Palestinian state. But such an agreement would have to mark a definitive end to the conflict, recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people—as formulated in the 1947 UN partition resolution—and enable Israel to patrol the Jordan Valley to prevent the smuggling of rockets and missiles.
Minister Steinitz placed the blame for the failure of the recent American peace initiative squarely on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, “who suddenly decided to leave the negotiating table” after rejecting Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to extend the talks beyond the April 29 deadline.
“Nobody should tell us that we need peace in order to survive, exist and flourish,” Steinitz declared. “We will survive. Israel will survive as a democratic Jewish state whether our neighbors will finally agree to accept it and make peace with us or not."Date: 5/14/2014 12:00:00 AM