Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya`alon (Likud) slammed Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Independence) on Saturday, saying that his actions on the Iranian nuclear issue have been driven by political interests rather than ones of national security.
"The defense minister preferred (to act on) political considerations rather than national ones," he said, asserting that Barak had allowed the state to push itself into a corner with an aggressive stance on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, and in the moment of truth "he backtracked and even presented himself as a moderate."
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The Independence party dismissed Ya'alon's claims as "pathetic statements."
State officials over the past few weeks said that the defense minister's recent trip to the US was meant to promote his own standing in Washington at the expense of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ties with the Obama administration.
Speaking at a "Shabbat Tarbut" lecture held in Holon, Ya'alon, who also serves as the minister of strategic affairs, branded this purported pursuit as an "unthinkable deed" and suggested that it caused the rift between the two leaders.
"One cannot exploit security interests to serve political interests," he said. "When you present yourself as a moderate factor who is willing to make concessions, you win points in the US and influence the electorate here. It's an unthinkable deed."
Presenting his own agenda on Iran, the Likud minister said that military action in the Islamic Republic should be used only as a last resort.
"Financial sanctions should have been imposed long ago, and even now these sanctions are not applied to their fullest extent," he said. "We'll watch out for the sanctions that have been drafted by the Europeans this week. Ultimately, it is possible to stop Iran's nuclear program without using military force, and in order to do so we have to make them face a dilemma: Either continue with the project, or survive."
He noted, however, that not even the harshest financial penalties will be effective without a credible military option.
"Unfortunately, the American stance did not convince the Iranians that the West is determined to go all the way," he said.
'Pathetic' attempt to brownnose?
Independence Party Director-General Oshi Elmaliah accused Ya'alon of trying curry favor with Right-wing Likud members ahead of the elections.
"The need to ingratiate himself with the radical Right within the Likud is driving Moshe Ya'alon to make pathetic statements," he said. "Defense Minister Ehud Barak is making efforts, and will continue to make efforts, to deal with the Iranian threat, bolster Israel's security and deepen its ties with the US."
Addressing recent reports the Netanyahu was in talks with Syria over a peace treaty contingent on the Israeli disengagement from the Golan Heights, Ya'alon said Saturday that as far as he knows, the prime minister did not plan to give up the strategic plateau.
"Pursuing discrete communication with officials in the region is legitimate for an Israeli prime minister," he said. "Our hand is extended in peace to everyone, on the condition that we don't have to ask immediately which territory we have to leave in order to attain peace.
"There was an attempt to break the axis of evil," he said, referring to reports that the talks were meant, in part, to drive a wedge between Iran, Hezbollah and Syria by taking the latter out of the equation.
"The last two years prove what a terrible mistake it would have been (to disengage from the Golan Heights,)" he said. "(…) The Golan Heights are a security asset."
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