Defense Minister Ehud Barak
declared Wednesday that 2012 is "the year of the fight against the Iranian nuclear program."
In a meeting with military analysts and correspondents, Barak said that the economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic are working but that it has yet to be seen whether they will achieve a true compromise that will halt Tehran's nuclear program.
Barak was referring to a meeting between representatives of the six world powers and Iran officials set to take place in Turkey on April 13-14. "We are waiting for the results of the negotiations," he said. "We will be following the talks to make sure Iran isn't using negotiations to stall for time to advance its nuclear program."
Barak said that time was running out as Iran continues to enrich uranium and store it in underground facilities. "Israel is prepared to wait for the negotiations' results before it decides on a course of action. It's not a matter of weeks, but not of years either," he said, reiterating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's position.
The defense minister also addressed the Palestinian issue. He said that the calm in the West Bank is temporary and should not be taken for granted.
Barak claimed that there are signs of growing unrest among the Palestinians and that the state of calm in the West Bank depends on "how much support and aid we can give them and to what extent Fatah remains committed to non-violence."
He further added, "It is in Israel's interest to reach a settlement with the Palestinians, a two-state solution and a ground-up process of building a Palestinian state led by Salam Fayyad."
Addressing the Home Front's state of preparedness, he noted that the "US is standing by us in an exceptional way and will help us purchase more Iron Dome and Magic Wand systems as well as cruise missiles which could dramatically improve Home Front protection."
Asked about US-Israel relations, Barak said that the two nations share an intimate understanding that isn't always reflected in formal agreement. Nevertheless, he stressed that Israel cannot entrust decisions critical to its future and security in the hands of others, "even friends like the US."
Barak also addressed the threat from the north. He said that should Hezbollah use high-trajectory weapons against Israel in a future conflict, Israel will not hesitate to use great force against Lebanon's state infrastructure. "Hezbollah knows this," he noted.