Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has revealed that Iran has increased its funding of terrorism against Israel.
"Last month, Iran gave the Islamic Jihad USD 1.8 million, to carry out attacks against Israel," Mofaz told Ynet in an interview.
The defense minister said that the figure was a short-term record transfer of cash. His comments came as a terror attack involving a large explosives device was intercepted on Highway 1 connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Despite the cloudy security situation, the defense minister is relaxed about politics.
Spin doctors in the media have already made it clear that his role is assured after the elections – assuming that the polls are realized and Kadima assembles the next government.
At his office in the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, looking at high over the noisy traffic below, Mofaz displayed familiarity with his new party's slogans.
Mr. Defense Minister, we are a week away from elections. What effort is being made by terror organizations to carry out attacks?
"We know that Iran transferred in the last month USD 1.8 million to the Islamic Jihad organization in order to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. This is direct aid from Iran, from which most of the money is transferred through Syria, and from there to the Islamic Jihad in the territories."
What does this mean? The Iranians are giving an economic push to create terrorism?
"The axis of evil, including Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, is consolidating. Hizbullah is also involved in some of the terror operations here and sends messages, as well as money, which arrives from Iran to the Islamic Jihad, and to Hamas, from other sources. The bottom line is that there is a consolidation of the axis of evil in two senses: One is terrorism, and the second is the Iranian nuclear project."
Let's talk about the situation in Gaza. Wasn't Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu right on the eve of the disengagement when he warned about the ascension of Hamastan in Gaza? Aren't we seeing that now on the ground?
"I don't think Bibi was right. The reality is unfolding against his eyes and Bibi is simply interpreting and flipping it, as if he knew it from the beginning, as if he knew it would happen."
So what is the situation in Gaza from your perspective? Did the disengagement prove itself – or are we just not discovering its dangers?
"Our security situation has improved invaluably since the disengagement, despite the disturbing Qassam firing. The fact is, we have had no casualties among soldiers and civilians in Gaza. They can't dispatch suicide bombers out of the Gaza Stripe. 99 percent of their attempts to infiltrate Israel have been thwarted. Therefore they are trying to fire these Qassams. And here too, so long as we patiently, and with nerves of steel, continue our targeted strike against the entire Qassam chain – we will succeed in dealing with the problem."
There are some who claim that the Gaza Strip must be closed off completely, and to end all contact with it so long as terror continues.
"I think that we can't close the Gaza Strip off completely. We can't say to the Palestinians to live on their own. There is a dependency on us."
Are you hinting that the safe passage way from Gaza tot eh West Bank, through Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat, is still relevant?
"No, no. The safe passage way is off the agenda. If one ay there will be dialogue with the Palestinians, I assume it will again be placed on the negotiations table. Either way, we can't completely close off the passages to the Gaza Strip. They exist to facilitate the Palestinian population, and not terrorism. We have to insert food products, milk… this has no connection to American pressure. I simply think that one can't tie the whole of the Palestinian population to terrorism. We must also remember that pictures of babies hungry for food and milk, or lack of medicine, will harm Israel's image. Israel does not harm innocent civilians."
Which red line does the Hamas government have to cross to cause the State of Israel to declare war on it?
"If the Palestinian Authority of Hamas applies direct terrorism against Israel, in other words Hamas returns to the terror cycle, and the waves of suicide bombers of two and three years ago, we will strike at anyone who operates terror. When we set out on Operation Defense Shield we didn't call it a war. If the Palestinian Authority applies direct terror against us, that is a crossing of a red line. Then Israel will be obligated to work as aggressively as possible against this entity. I don't want to be misunderstood as saying that tomorrow we will go and conquer Gaza. I only said that we'll strike terror if it is applied directly against us."
Ronny Sofer contributed to this report