Iran’s nuclear program “is the acid test of Obama’s foreign policy,” said Lt. General (Res.) Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense committees.
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DENVER—“Real change and stability” in the Middle East is 10 to 15 years away, Lt. General (Res.) Shaul Mofaz said at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly on Tuesday.
Mofaz—chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense committees, and formerly the IDF Chief of Staff, Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister—said to expect a “long transition period” from dictatorships to democracy and economic improvement, despite the involvement of young and educated activists.
“It is too early to assess whether this really is an Arab Spring, or God forbid, a long, fundamentalist winter,” said Mofaz, who is facing opposition leader Tzipi Livni and MK Avi Dichter in the upcoming Kadima party primary. “Only time will tell.”
The Iranian Threat
Mofaz called combating a nuclear Iran “the acid test of Obama’s foreign policy.” It is up to the U.S. administration to get the done with increased sanctions, he said, and Israel cannot be an international “scapegoat” on the Iran issue.
“This is not a Jewish problem, it is the problem of the free world,” Mofaz said.
Russia and China must also cooperate for sanctions against Iran to be effective, according to Mofaz. For its part, Israel should only resort to military action against Iran “when all else folds,” he said.
Since it has led the struggle between Shia and Sunni Muslims for the last 30 years, Mofaz said Iran poses a “double threat” to Israel and other states in Middle East.
Around the Arab Spring
The conditions of the Arab Spring, due to the backdrop of radical Islamic elements like the Muslim Brotherhood, “increase the risk of escalation in several areas at the same time,” Mofaz said—raising safety concerns for Israel.
In Egypt, the toppling of Hosni Mubarak has upset stability on the Israeli-Egyptian border, leading to terror activity and the smuggling of missiles and weapons into Gaza. In Syria, Mofaz said, the “bloody revolution is still going in full force and I believe it will not stop.”
Meanwhile, in Lebanon, thousands of long-term Hezbollah missiles are ready to reach Israel’s major cities and present a “tangible” danger.
Turkey has “strong ambitions to become the new leader of the Muslim world in the Middle East,” and therefore, Israel should work quickly to resolve “the friction between us” and smooth religious and economic tensions, Mofaz said.
The Peace Process
The “revolutionary wave” of the Arab Spring, according to Mofaz, will not miss the “Palestinian street.”
Mofaz called for immediately resuming direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, as unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN “is a blatant violation of the Oslo agreement.”
The only way to move the peace process forward is in two phases, Mofaz said: an interim agreement, followed by a final settlement. Israel and the Palestinians “are very close to reaching an agreement” on borders and security, but far away on core issues such as Jerusalem and Palestinian “refugees,” Mofaz said, due to a “lack of trust on both sides.”
Israel must not give up large “settlement” blocks in any peace agreement because of the need to maintain eastern defensible border, he said, and a Palestinian state must be demilitarized.
Continued stagnation in peace talks will lead to an “unnecessary and painful confrontation,” he said.
“Let it be clear, time is not on Israel’s side, and time is also not on the Palestinian side,” Mofaz said.
Jacob Kamaras is the Editor-in-Chief of JNS.