'Iran must not be allowed to be a nuclear country.' Steinitz
Photo: Yoav Galai
'Hizbullah today is stronger in terms of its arsenal.' Nasrallah
Photo: AFP

'Iran center of US-Israeli talks'

MK Steinitz says Islamic Republic at center of talks between Israeli officials and visiting US Congressional delegation; 'pretty clear' military option is on table should sanctions fail, he says, adding that 'Hizbullah threat higher than ever'

Iran was at the center of talks held between members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee for the US and Israel, Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz told Ynetnews on Monday evening.


Steinitz is hosting a delegation of three American Congress members (Jane Harman, Gabrielle Giffords, Steve Pearce) and a senator (John Kyl) who arrived on a military flight to Israel on Sunday night to meet with fellow Israeli committee members. On Monday evening, the delegation met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem.


"The Iranian subject was the first topic in all of the discussions," Steinitz said, adding: "It was the central issue."


"Everyone expressed an unequivocal stance that Iran must not be allowed to be a nuclear country, and to have nuclear weapons," Steinitz said. "There is some hope that if Europe works with the US to achieve economic sanctions, and a blockade on Tehran, then Iran may agree to halts its program, like North Korea," he said. "If not, it's pretty clear that the military solution is on table," he added.


The US delegation toured Jerusalem throughout Monday. Knesset Member Steinitz told Ynetnews he showed the US delegation around the works being carried out at the Mugrabi Gate, as well as archaeological work around the Western Wall.


"I explained to them that the Islamic Movement's claims are not political, but are a total rejection of Judeo-Christian history. Their claim that there was no Temple in Jerusalem, and their rejection of what was said in the Old and New Testament, is an attack on Judeo-Christian tradition. It is an attempt to start a religious fanatic war," Steinitz said. He added that the delegation understood the severity of the issue.


In the past, the joint Knesset-Congress-Senate committee helped make hundreds of millions of dollars available for Israel's missile defense shield, Arrow, which is produced in cooperation Boeing in the US.


In addition, according to Steinitz, the committee has in the past prevented arms sales to Arab states that would have threatened Israel's unique edge in the region; it also initiated the Iran nuclear sanctions law, which makes it illegal for governments to provide arms or aid Iran's nuclear program, the Knesset member said.


"This is not just a polite visit," Steinitz emphasized.


On Tuesday, the delegation will visit an Arrow missile battery at an IDF base in Palmahim, in southern Israel, and will receive a guided tour on the recent successful test of the Arrow system. They will then meet with Mossad Director Meir Dagan.


'Hizbullah stronger than ever'

Steinitz slammed Defense Minister Amir Peretz's attempt to soften comments made by the IDF Military Intelligence Head Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, who told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Hizbullah's threat level was almost as high as it was on the eve of the war. Peretz said the threat was merely "potential."


"There are facts and there are political comments," Steinitz told Ynetnews.


"The facts are as Baidatz described them. Hizbullah today is stronger in terms of its arsenal, and rocket possession, than it was on the eve of the war. It's very unpleasant for us Israelis to hear, and for the government in particular, because we not only failed to lift the Hizbullah threat, but the threat has increased," he said.


"I was very surprised by the comments of the defense minister. Personally, I don't understand what 'potential' means," Steinitz added.


Knesset Member Steinitz was formerly chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.


He hinted that "new" elements could be present in Lebanon, but couldn't go into more details. "It (Baidatz's testimony) confirms what we all know, that the last war wasn't a big success from Israel's perspective," he said. 


פרסום ראשון: 02.19.07, 20:08
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