By Aaron Heller, The Associated Press, in Globe and Mail, April 19 2012
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday his country has never promised the United States it would hold off from attacking Iran while nuclear talks were taking place.
The comments, in which Mr. Barak said that a diplomatic push to reach a compromise with Iran was a waste of “precious time,” further exposed a rift between Israel and the U.S. over how to deal with Iran and its nuclear program.
Israel, arguing that a nuclear Iran would pose an existential threat, has said it will not allow Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon. It cites Iranian calls for Israel's destruction, Iran's support for Arab militant groups and its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state.
Fearing that Iran is moving quickly toward nuclear capability, Israel has repeatedly hinted at an attack if Iran's uranium enrichment program continues to advance. Enrichment is a key process in developing weapons, and Israel says Iran is closely approaching a point where it can no longer be stopped.
The U.S. favours diplomacy and economic sanctions and has said military action on Iran's nuclear facilities should only be a last resort if all else fails.
Officials from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany met with Iran in Istanbul last weekend to discuss the country's nuclear program. The talks were described as positive, and they agreed to meet again on May 23 in Baghdad.
Mr. Barak told Israel's Army Radio he did not believe the talks would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. “We regret the time being lost. This is precious time,” he said.
Mr. Barak said the talks needed to yield quick results.
“It requires a few direct meetings where all the demands are put on the table. There you can see if the other side is playing for time, drawing it out through the year, or if indeed the other side is genuinely striving to find a solution,” he said. “In this light, any ‘time-outs,' especially when they are this long, do not serve our interests,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we maintain the view that this will probably not have an impact or bring the Iranians to cease their nuclear program. Of course we will be happy to be proven wrong,” he added.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran got a “freebie” from the international community, saying the May meeting gave the Iranians an additional five weeks to continue uranium enrichment without any restrictions. He said Iran should be forced to stop this immediately.
Nevertheless, President Obama says that the talks "gave nothing away" to the Iranians.
A picture of what this must be like for the Israelis....imagine for a moment someone knocks on your door, announcing it is going to blow up your home, with the inhabitants inside...but needs to make a few final arrangements in its weaponry before commencing the attack.
From that moment, is there any room for compromise, negotiation or trust between you and the intruder?
And that removal of all trust changes everything. Some would even call it blackmail, that Iran seeks to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth, according to her despotic, and some would say, 'mad' president.
The nuances of the degree to which the weapons have already been developed, when that knock is heard on the front door go out the window, immediately upon the receipt of the message of complete annhilation.
And yet, there are still many, including the group of 5 plus 1 that apparently consider the threat one that can be negotiated back from the brink. I wonder how many neighbours, in your proverbial neighbourhood, if told that your house was to be razed adn your family killed, would take that position, that the 'bully', in this case, can be talked "down" from his violence.
Of course, everyone would seek to learn the background to the hatred this bully has against your family and home. And when they learned that the enmity stretches back centuries, and has had an intransigent element from the beginning, and that it is based on some deeply held tenets of distrust, revenge, jealousy and even some perversion of a religion, there might be even less confidence to negotiate. Call the police, would likely be the result.
And yet, in this case, we are all the police, and we are all part of the family inside that threatened home, and we are also part of the voice of those who threaten that home.
We are all conflicted about this strife. We do not want the home blown up; we do not want the inhabitants killed, or threatened with extinction; we do not want a fight that will bring us all into the conflict, just when there is a glimmer of hope that the economic and climate and terror threats in other parts of "our town" have given signs of abating...
Yet we are powerless eunuchs, it would seem, to affect any change in the plans of the insurgent threats.
And, we also have some different things that we believe need our attention, so we become somewhat distracted at the plight of our neighbour...and that seems to enhance the impact of the threat because it hangs over all of us even longer.
Is it gaining or losing its teeth?
Only time will tell us the answer, and our decisions, whether they are to postpone any collective action, or to make some different kinds of threats to push back, or to turn-the-other-cheek...continue to write the narrative of this story, without seeming to have any deterrent effect on the agent who knocked on our door, threatening to blow us off the face of the earth.