Israeli envoy calls divisive settlement plan a politically necessary reprisal
Settlement plans east of Jerusalem – decried by the US and Europeans – were meant to punish Palestinians and satisfy domestic political pressure in Israel, Ambassador Michael Oren says.
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In listing the factors that make this the “worst of times” for Israel, Oren cited a daunting list: political turmoil in Egypt, with which Israel maintains a shaky peace accord; the continuing threat posed by Hamas in Gaza; the civil war in Syria, where extremists threaten to get their hands on the chemical weapons of the teetering regime of Bashar al-Assad; and Iran, and in particular its nuclear program, which Oren said continues to advance toward a point where Israel would be forced to act.Skip to next paragraph
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On the Syrian conflict, Oren suggested Israel is keeping very close tabs on activity around Syria’s chemical weapons sites – and warned that Israel would take immediate action at any evidence of Syria transferring any of its chemical weapons to Hezbollah, the Iranian-supported extremist organization in Lebanon.
But the Israeli diplomat also found a silver lining in the civil war that is threatening President Assad’s rule, saying “anything would be better” than the arc of extremism that he says currently links Tehran, Damascus, and Beirut.
Yet even though Assad’s fall would constitute a strategic blow to Iran, Oren said Israel continues to consider Iran’s nuclear program as the most important existential threat it faces.
Oren reminded reporters of the “red line” that Prime Minister Netanyahu laid down in his speech to the UN General Assembly in September, in which he said that Israel would not permit Iran’s nuclear program, and its enrichment of uranium, to proceed to a point where Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon could no longer be stopped.
In the weeks since Netanyahu’s speech, attention has shifted to prospects for talks early next year between Iran and world powers, and speculation that Iran may be ready to reach a deal to limit its nuclear program. But Oren made it clear that Israel will not be easily dissuaded from taking action against Iran’s nuclear sites.
Noting that Netanyahu in his speech set spring or early summer 2013 as the point where an advancing Iran would have to be deterred, Oren said, “We continue to adhere to that red line.”