April 9th, 2012
12:39 PM ET

Israeli defense minister on preventing a nuclear Iran

On Sunday, I interviewed the former Prime Minister and current Defense Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak. We spoke about Israel's "window of opportunity" to strike Iran and the future of the Palestinian Authority.

Here's a transcript of our discussion:

Fareed Zakaria: You have long argued that we need more pressure on Iran. President Obama announced recently that he believes that the supplies of oil in the world are sufficient to pursue an even more stringent set of sanctions against Iran.  These will be the tightest, harshest sanctions that have ever been put in place, I think, against any country.

Do you think that this will be enough to put the kind of pressure on Iran that you have wanted? 

Ehud Barak: No one can predict, Fareed. It is clear that the depths of the sanctions is different for what we had in the past, and it has its impact both the closing of the swift clearing system as well as the sanctions on the oil export and, of course, the coming negotiations that will probably encourage them to move.

But to tell the truth, we hope for the better, but I don't believe that this amount of sanctions and pressure will bring the Iranian leadership to the conclusion that they have to stop their nuclear military program.

Fareed Zakaria: If the Iranians were to make some proposal or agree to some proposal, would you be satisfied, would the Israeli government be satisfied if they were to accept some version of a very intrusive international inspections regime, or to accept that the enriched uranium be made in Russia? Are these kinds of compromises ones you could accept as a solution to this problem?

Ehud Barak: Fareed, we see the Iranian nuclear military program as a challenge to the whole world, not just to Israel. We are convinced that to deal with it once it's nuclear will be much more complicated, much more dangerous, much more costly in terms of both a human life as well as financial resources.

But at the same time, we are not against any kind of effective and urgent sanctions, not even against negotiations. But we told our American friends as well as the Europeans that we would have expected the threshold for successful negotiation to be clear, namely that the P5+1 will demand clearly that, number one, no more enrichment to 20 percent. All the already enriched 20 percent material out of the country to a neighboring trusted country. Then all the material enriched to 3.5 percent, probably except for a few hundred kilograms, should be taken out of the country, once again, into a neighboring trusted country.

Number three, the installation in Fordo near Qom under the ground should be decommissioned in order not to enable them to resume enrichment to 20 percent, and tight inspection by the IAEA, according to protocol 3.1, should be imposed. If all these are met, even if they get in exchange fuel rods for their TLR, their research reactor and so on, that could be OK. It would be a different regime.

But if the P5+1 will settle for a much lower threshold, like just stop enriching 20 percent, it means that basically the Iranians, at a very cheap cost, bought their way into continuing their military program, slightly slower, but without sanctions. That will be a total change of direction for the world.

Fareed Zakaria: And if that were to happen - if you were to end up with what you regard as a suboptimal or less-than-perfect solution, you have argued that Israel has a closing window of opportunity to act because, at a certain point, the Iranian sites get hardened.

Is there time pressure on you? Do you believe that you have only a certain amount of time before which military strikes would not be effective against Iran?

Ehud Barak: You know, by definition, we have a limited time. Every quarter it becomes shorter by a quarter. But I expressed already my view that we don't have to make a decision next week and we cannot wait years, though.

It is not a matter of weeks, but it is not a matter of years on the other hand, before Israel will be practically kind of deprived from the possibility to contemplate what could be done.

But that is not the real issue. I really see it as a major change for the whole world. I really see it as a critical time for the rest of the world as well. And I really think that the tightest possible sanctions and steps against Iran should be ratcheting in a way that will effectively corner it.

Fareed Zakaria: But Mr. Minister, you said you don't have to decide this in a week, but you don't have much more than a year. So, in effect, you're saying that there is a fairly clear timeline here, that around some time in the next nine to 12 months, something has to get negotiated that stops Iranian enrichment. Otherwise, Israel will feel compelled to act.

Ehud Barak: You go much beyond what I've said. We don't have any decision about what to do, a date for the decision.

But it's clear, that for us, it's critical. I strongly believe it's not critical for us. Actually, I believe that it's critical for you as well.

I read into your articles, right, that we - you, Fareed, and me - have differences about it, but I think that you are wrong and I'm right about it - that no mutually assured destruction kind of situation will serve as a modifier or stabilizer in this case, because we are not a continent and Israel is not either the United States or the Soviet Union.

And it's basically - sanctions are the only option by now. And the fact that Khamenei says that he doesn't want to get a nuclear weapon is just the kind of a tricky kind of rhetoric. Amano's report could not leave doubt in the mind of any serious person that Iran is now determined to reach nuclear military capability in spite of the determination of the rest of the world to block them.

And looking into the past, drawing from the examples of both Pakistan and North Korea, we can realize that it can happen. So we feel it urgent. Of course, we look at it slightly different from other nations, but we think that it's important to deal with it extremely seriously and not to remove any option from the table, except for containment.

Those who believe in containment see a ray of hope. I don't believe in containment, so I don't see how easily it's going to be solved. I will be happy to be wrong.

Fareed Zakaria: Mr. Minister, there's a new book out in the United States, called The Crisis of Zionism by Peter Beinart.

And in it he proposes that the West Bank and Gaza should be described not as the West Bank and Gaza, not as Judea and Samaria but "undemocratic Israel," the argument being that you have millions of Palestinians there who have no vote and no state. Is that a fair characterization of the West Bank, as "undemocratic Israel"?

Ehud Barak: I did not read the book so I cannot make kind of a statement about, but it's clear that the deeper reason to have this solution of two states for two people is in order to make sure that Israel, we would delineate a borderline within which we will have a solely Jewish majority for generations to come, and beyond which we will have a viable Palestinian state with a Palestinian majority, that will express their identity, their dreams and their aspirations.

And I think that it's possible - it's not simple, it's possible. It needs goodwill from both sides, a readiness to take a tough decision and certain weights toward it, if Israel remain the only political entity, west of the Jordan River, the fact that there are blocks of millions of Palestinians and they cannot vote to the Knesset makes a problem.

And if they can vote to the Knesset, it make Israel by a nation of state. But that's exactly - it's clear to all of us Israelis, including right-wing Israelis, and that's what drive most of us, including the right wing, to understand that the only solution is a two-state solution. And that's what Netanyahu said more than once.

The only issue we care about is that viewing the execution that the possessing of these two states for a solution, the security considerations of Israel and its national interest, it will be taken into account.

Because, however complicated the Palestinian state will be, a part of community of 20-odd states of Arab nature, and Israel will remain the only Jewish state in the region, and probably the only member of the U.N., which has explicitly threatened to be destroyed by other members of the U.N. That's a situation that needs to be taken care of by us.

We realize we are living in  a tough neighborhood, no mercy for the weak and no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves. We want to be strong, ready to protect ourselves, under whatever kind of threat, but at the same time, stretching out our hand to make peace with any neighbor who is ready for it.

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Topics: GPS Show • Iran • Israel

soundoff (156 Responses)
  1. Jonathan Pollard American zionist Traitor and Spy for israel

    We own America! No matter what . . . everyone will bow before israel. Today it is Iran, tomorrow it will be Georgia and Turkey. After that it will be Pakistan. We zionists are on the march. For all you zionist haters out there, we're watching you! For the rest of you stupid Americans . . . just do what you are told to do and believe everything you hear and read on CNN, NYTimes, NBC, Fox News, Time Magazine . . . and keep your children in front of the television at least 6 or 7 hours a day. For your children we want you to have them watching the Disney Channel and nothing else.

    We like our slaves to be stupid.

    For the rest of you . . . like I said we're watching you! And soon we'll be coming for you in the night.

    israel forever . . . .and keep that money coming to us!!

    April 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      My God, you are stupid.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  2. bob

    The sanctions to date have not worked and the experts all agree they are NOT likely to succeed in the future. Iran's goal is to have Nukes and a delivery system even if all their people starve to death between now and then. The talks are only meant to buy needed time .Just like the North Koreans 😉

    April 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Reply
    • TooManyThings

      Glad you mentioned North Korea. What is Israel doing to prevent North Korea from gaining nukes, which could threaten the United States. Why isn't our President expecting them to go to war with N. Korea because we may be in danger?

      April 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
      • Patrick

        North Korea has not threatened Israel.

        April 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  3. deathstalker187

    It is funny to me how many people post things when any mention of Israel comes up. It is mostly two sided as well one all about Israel the others all about Arabia and the Palestinians. The bottom line is Israel is not going to go anywhere unless they are nuked off the map. If that happens world war 3 will begin and most of Arabia will also be wiped off the map. Also when Israel is nuked off the map it will take all of Palestine with it. This is obviously a really stupid idea but I am not sure if the Palestinians care that much. They seem to hate Israel so much they would be ok with dieing with them. As crazy as that sounds it is quite possibly true. Israel and Palestine need to get over this crap and deal. They will live together or die together there is no one or the other any more. If Israel tries to kill all the Palestinians then they will have to fight all the Arab countries and both Palestine and Israel will be no more.

    Learn to coexist or both nations will die. Some of the issues you have is the lack of land but land can be made from the sea you live next to. This is not impossible if you put half the effort you put into destroying each other in creating new land from the bottom of the sea your land issues would not even exist. Man made islands are quite possible and profitable. Work together for a greater Israel and Palestine learn that you must coexist.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  4. chelsea

    there you go... problem solved... tell NKorea that Israel is trying to destroy them and is publicly diverting attention to Iran while Israel prepares to attack NKorea. When NKorea fires towards Israel, Israel will engage their own missile defense.
    Results? we have just eliminated 2 nucear powers from global terrorism. All other Nuclear powers then take necessary steps to shut down nuclear weaponry programs. i see it all now...

    April 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
    • deathstalker187

      The only thing you see is WW3

      April 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  5. reza

    I'm disgusted by the way Fareed appeared in front of Ehud Barak. Just watch Farid's many interviews with Hamid Karzai and compare those to this. What a coward. Instead of challenging Barak on their position that they are under threat he was just checking the timeline of their attack. I felt like listening to FOX news.

    Fareed should have asked, Mr. Barak, you maintain that Iran nuclear arms is an existential threat to Israel. Are you suggesting that Iran will use a nuclear device against Israel right in the middle of Palestinians, Lebanese and Egyptian?
    Even if they did, wouldn't you use your 150+ devices on them the next minute? How is this equation work?

    April 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • Uff Da Ole

      een khareh, oon yekin khar tareh.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Reply
  6. Clay

    In other words, "we'll be bombing them soon" 'cause Iran will NEVER accept those conditions!

    April 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  7. Uff Da Ole

    This is so much c r a p. The rest of the world knows Israel has nukes and is in direct violation of NPT, albeit a non-signatory, and Israel knows the rest of the world knows and everyone does the ostrich dance.; stick their heads in the dirt and pretend all's well. I say let's make it an even playing field by having Israel become an NPT signatory and thereby forcing that country, like other NPT signatories, ie Iran, to allow IAEA inspectors. THEN, let's sit back and hear watch how many inspectors, and the organization, which previously was serving a purpose for Israel will then become an anti-s e m i t i c organization. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Reply
  8. evensteven

    No more U.S. military involvement on behalf of Israel . . .

    April 11, 2012 at 4:44 am | Reply
    • forsaken

      ooohh so agreed. they are the most expensive friend one could have. not worth the trouble.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:17 am | Reply
  9. zionist pigs

    used the holocaust to claim palestian. now they are using america's military to claim power..... how pathetic can they gett... they make up excuses to bomb innocent children and to hurt ppl. who eva supports them have blood on their hands so shame on u. the devil is waiting for u in hell zionist pigs.. to bad a pAlestian is more jewish than u will eva be. zinoiist wanna be

    April 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  10. Tactical Conflict Management Solutions

    I am easy I will turn the whole region into Syria, let them all. kill each other and let God sort it out. There is a threat, what type do you want conventional, non conventional, asymmetrical hybrid. I have a policy make life easy for me and hard for the other guy, which works in line with the policy of thought deviation, give them something else to focus on.

    Thankfully it is far easier to break a vase, then stick one back together with 1000 pieces. Chaos, controlled chaos skipped the Kingdoms. Throw the gates of hell open, Iraq 2005 but regional and who is going to shut them, it will only stop when the blood runs out. Since they breed like rabbit it will be sometime.

    Look the current clowns in control are problems, those that replace them are Islamist clowns so the solution to then problem is a problem, so stability is the problem. Instability is security.

    Allahu loves me I keep Malik in stock of fresh souls.

    The handle says it all.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:03 am | Reply
  11. http://revuguru.com/

    Well said!

    June 21, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Reply
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