"Shimon Peres has forgotten what his role is as president of the State of Israel," an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday evening after Peres spoke out against an Israeli strike in Iran.
In an interview to Channel 2, Peres said, "It is clear that we can cannot do it (attack) on our own. We can delay it (Iran's nuclear program), but we realize we have to proceed together with America. There are questions of cooperation and of timetables, but as severe as the danger is, at least this time we're not alone."
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The president was referring to a recent statement by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to which the IDF is incapable of destroying Iran's nuclear program. He was also referring to President Barack Obama's pledge to prevent a nuclear Iran.
"I am convinced this is an American interest. I am convinced (Obama) recognizes the American interest and he isn't saying this just to keep us happy. I have no doubt about it, after having had talks with him," said the president.
"Israel has to depend on itself, but when it depends on itself, that does not mean that it has to give up on its friends. When I say 'I have the right to self defense,' that does not mean that I have an obligation to stop talking to everyone! Of course not!"
'American interest.' Peres (L) and Netanyahu (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Netanyahu's aides were livid. "Peres forgot that he made at least three cardinal mistakes related to national security. He erred when he thought the Oslo Accords would bring a new Middle East, when in reality the process claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis and resulted in terror attacks originating from the territories he ceded to the Palestinians," one of the aides said.
"He was wrong when he thought there would be peace in Gaza after the disengagement, when in reality missiles are being fired at Israeli citizens from there. But his biggest mistake was in 1981, when he opposed the bombing of the Iraqi reactor, and luckily Prime Minister Menachem Begin ignored him," the aide argued.
"Just yesterday Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Israel must disappear from the map. This regime cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons."
In the TV interview, the president said he did not believe Israel would launch an attack on Iran before November. "I won't get into an operational discussion. I think a nuclear Iran must be prevented, and I believe there is a serious coalition that can prevent it, because (Iran poses a threat) to the entire world, including the US," he said.
As president, Peres, 89, has little political power in Israel. But he has won the respect of many Israelis while serving in the post and his opposition to any unilateral action poses an additional challenge to Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, about 150 people demonstrated on Tel Aviv's King George Street Thursday evening against a strike in Iran. The crowd chanted "War-mongering will hurt welfare" and "In Tehran and in the Krayot children want to live." Demonstrators waved signs reading, "Don't bomb, talk."
"I came here because I am sick and tired of the audacity of our leaders, who do what they want without thinking of us, the people," one protestor told Ynet. "This demonstration is not just against a strike in Iran, it is also against the lack of democracy and the attempt to turn our country into a dictatorship."
The protestors later marched to Defense Minister Ehud Barak's home and demonstrated outside, as they have done throughout the past week.
Gilad Morag, Reuters contributed to the report