Olmert: ‘still time to stop nuclear Iran’
Agenda-setting conference debates present and future security threats
THERE WAS still time to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Wednesday evening.
Giving the keynote address at the prestigious Herzliya Conference, Mr Olmert said: “There is no near threat of a nuclear attack on Israel.
“At the stage we are in, there is still time — though not unlimited amounts — to stop Iran from going nuclear.”
Mr Olmert said that a diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue was “preferred by us… whoever believes that the diplomatic solution is preferable must start now to pressure Iran.” Mr Olmert said there was a large international coalition, including Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, that did not want to see a nuclear Iran.
At the same, the prime minister warned that “the Jewish nation is scarred with the Holocaust, and won’t allow itself to again face a threat to its existence. In the past, the world was silent, and the outcome is known. Our role is to refrain from making this mistake again,” he declared.
Earlier in the week, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the conference that “radical Islam has already taken over the Palestinian leadership and is now attempting to do the same in Lebanon. It challenges the US efforts in Iraq and seeks WMDs in Iran. This is more than a security threat — it’s a political, moral and cultural threat, on Christianity and Judaism as well as on the moderate branches of Islam.
“Our primary mission is to harness all possible elements for the delegitimisation and isolation of Iran… this will bring about either a stop to the nuclear programme or a receptive public opinion for action against it.”
Mr Netanyahu reminded the public of the successful effort against the apartheid regime and said that this could be repeated today towards Iran. He said that a concentrated economic boycott could be conducted by nations as well as by private corporations and economic institutions. “A world that didn’t stop the Holocaust in the past can stop the next Holocaust,” he said. “This is something you can do — divest genocide.
“With regards to our means of self defence we must maintain a low profile, but in terms of raising support for rallying the international community against the proponents of genocide, who will lead this battle but us?”
Striking a different tone, Vice Premier Shimon Peres told the conference that the Iranian threat should not be exaggerated in view of the poverty and weakness of the regime. “Even if they do enrich uranium, what will they give the children of Tehran for breakfast — enriched uranium?”
Mr Peres added that Iran could be brought to its “natural proportions” by diplomatic and economic measures.
Leading American neo-conservative Richard Perle said that President George W Bush would order an attack on Iran if it became clear to him that the regime was set to acquire nuclear weapon capabilities while he was still in office. Mr Perle added that the present policy of attempting to impose sanctions on Iran will not cause it to abandon its nuclear aspirations, and unless stopped, the country would become a nuclear power.
Former CIA director James Woolsey noted: “Iran is not remotely interested in nuclear power for electricity. The destruction of Israel is not the policy of Iran, but its essence… achieving weap- ons of mass destruction is part of this essence.” He added that much in the same way, Hitler’s policy and essence was that of antisemitism.
Woolsey said that a US or Israeli attack on Iran was a bad scenario but the worst would be to allow a nuclear Iran. He also said that Israel should have made a move against Syria during the last war and that the US should have supported such a venture.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert delivers his keynote speech at the summit