Report: Mofaz “Offers Moderate Voice on Iran”


mofazThe New York Times reports: Less than two weeks ago, Yuval Diskin, the recently retired chief of Israel’s internal security agency, carried out a blistering verbal assault on Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, questioning their judgment in handling what they regard as an Iranian nuclear threat and accusing them of making decisions “based on messianic feelings.”

On Tuesday, as Mr. Netanyahu stood shoulder to shoulder with Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and military chief of staff and now the leader of the centrist Kadima Party, and welcomed him into the governing coalition, it was as if the prime minister was offering some kind of response, especially for a jittery Israeli public generally averse to a lone Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

While Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak have presented an aggressive stance against Iran, Mr. Mofaz is regarded as a more moderate voice who opposes any rush into military action. After becoming head of the opposition in March, he said in a television interview that an early attack on Iran could be “disastrous” and bring “limited results.”

Denouncing what he saw as the government’s Iran-centric policy to the detriment of the peace process with the Palestinians, Mr. Mofaz, who is Iranian-born, also said, in an interview in April, that “the greatest threat to the state of Israel is not a nuclear Iran.” Asked at a news conference on Tuesday about their differences on Iran, Mr. Netanyahu, addressing his home audience in Hebrew, said that their discussions “are serious, and will be serious and responsible.” Often referring to himself and Mr. Mofaz as judicious people, he spoke with an air of gravitas.

Many politicians and analysts argued that far from signaling any change in Israeli policy toward Iran, the inclusion of Mr. Mofaz and Kadima in the coalition would strengthen Mr. Netanyahu’s hand.

Yisrael Katz, the minister of transportation, told Israel Radio that if he were President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, he would be worried “because from today the state of Israel will be more united, both in its ability to deter and also, if necessary, in its ability to act.”

Ayoob Kara, a Likud Party deputy minister, said a strong government was necessary to deal with Iran. “If we are in consensus in Israel,” he said, “it gives us more power.”

Einat Wilf, a legislator from the small Independence faction, led by Mr. Barak, said that it was essential to keep the threat of a military option on the table and that with a broad Israeli consensus, “the credibility is higher.”

While Iran insists that its uranium enrichment program is for civilian purposes, Israeli, American and European officials say they believe that the Iranians are working toward the capability to build nuclear weapons.

Mr. Netanyahu, by broadening his coalition and thereby averting early elections, has bought himself more time and government stability. Since Mr. Barak’s faction may not have won any seats in the next Parliament, the extension is Mr. Netanyahu’s surest way of keeping his defense minister.

“I think it enables him to keep Iran on the front burner,” David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Project on the Middle East Peace Process, said in a telephone interview.

“It suddenly buys him quiet for a year and a half,” he said, adding, “He’s able to unite the country easier around the course of action if he incorporates his chief opposition party.”

But with polls showing that Mr. Mofaz’s Kadima could lose more than half its 28 parliamentary seats in an early election, his influence in the government will probably be circumscribed.

“Such weakness,” said Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, “means that his impact on the government’s Iran policy and narrative is likely to be limited.”

Although Mr. Netanyahu has used almost every platform to warn of what he calls the dangers to Israel and the world of a nuclear Iran, neither he nor Mr. Mofaz referred to the issue directly on Tuesday as they introduced their partnership at a news conference in the Parliament building.

Mr. Mofaz also did not mention Iran in his overnight meeting with Kadima Parliament members about his surprise deal with Mr. Netanyahu, said Nachman Shai, a legislator who had attended. But, he added, “it is always there, somewhere on the horizon.”

Ms. Wilf, of Mr. Barak’s faction, said that personal attacks and differences in language aside, there was broad agreement in Israel on what needed to be done about Iran, which already is the target of international sanctions.

“Everyone is saying they would prefer the sanctions to work,” backed up with the threat of a credible military option, she said. Only if all else fails, she said, should Israel act alone.

“Everyone is saying the same thing,” she said, “though there may be a difference of tone.”

{NY Times/ Newscenter}


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    They could plan all day, but if Hashem has other plans, nothing will materialise. A politicians word is like a childs. To be trusted if backed by action.