Sunday, February 28, 2010

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: Differences on Iran between US, Israel

(JTA) -- Israel and the United States have differences of perspective and judgment when it comes to Iran and the Middle East, but the overall relationship is sound, Ehud Barak said.

The Israeli defense minister, speaking Friday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy after a series of meetings with top U.S. officials, said that the United States necessarily viewed the Iran threat differently from Israel.

"From America, when you look at a nuclear Iran, you already have, just besides allies like France and U.K., you have a nuclear Russia, nuclear China, nuclear India, nuclear Pakistan, North Korea is going toward turning nuclear," Barak said. "So probably from this corner of the world, it doesn’t change the scene dramatically. "From a closer distance, in Israel it looks like a tipping point of the whole regional order with a quite assured, quite certain consequences to the wider world, global world order."

“In the moment of truth, the U.S. makes sure,” that Israel can defend itself, Barak said. “We felt very proud never to have asked America to fight for us. ‘Give us the tools, we do the job,’” he described Israel’s view on U.S.-Israeli security cooperation. “By supporting Israel, the U.S. relieves the need to do it itself."

Israeli officials say 2010 may be the last opportunity to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and want to press forward to "crippling" sanctions that would target Iran's energy sector. The Obama administration still favors multilateral sanctions that have an international consensus and that target Iranian individuals and entities.

Barak, who was in Washington to gauge the U.S. posture on Iran, said that despite such differences, solid U.S. support and mutual respect was the basis of the relationship.

"I think that beyond that there is, of course, a certain difference in perspective and difference in judgment, difference in the internal clocks and difference in capabilities," he said. "And I don’t think that there is a need to coordinate in this regard. That should be understood; it should be exchange of views – we do not need to coordinate every step."