Eytan Bentsur, the former director general of the Foreign Ministry, said Thursday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's snap visit to Russia to discuss the Iranian threat with Vladimir Putin was the result of a "severe diplomatic failure".
Bentsur, who served as deputy head of Israel's negotiation team during talks with Jordan and the Palestinians, told Ynet the PM's trip and the discussions held between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak with American and Chinese officials were the result of a flawed approach, which he described as a "failed policy that defined the Iranian threat as being that of the entire international community, not only Israel's".
According to Bentsur, this approach did not sufficiently engage world public opinion and or apply enough pressure on elements that cooperate economically with Iran and eventually resulted in a "decrease of tension" regarding the Iranian threat.
"Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran was a severe development," Bentsur continued to say, "Putin relieved the Iranian president of the burden of proof by putting his faith in statements saying the Islamic Republic is developing nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes.
"Putin is placing himself as a wedge between Iran and a military attack," the former Foreign Ministry chief said.
'Russia's position will not change instantaneously'
According to him, "the policy of restraint has now been exposed as a serious failure which carries with it a heavy price. All of this puts the situation in focus and completely justifies the prime minister's emergency visit to Russia. These developments are the fruit of the failure of the policy which holds that this (Iran) is an international problem."
Despite that, Bentsur believes, it's not too late. "When you are late in coming into action, the result will be less effective. But it's not late to make clear to Putin that there's a red line which Israel isn't prepared to see crossed," he said.
"Now, there should be an attempt to receive promises from Putin which do not match in any way his public statements," Bentsur added. "Perhaps there is room for maneuver in which we can receive support from the Russian stance," he added.
He also maintained that "the ultimate aim of Israeli diplomacy is to make clear that Israel cannot be a passive player for an extended period of time."
According to Bentsur, Israel must show that "it is not letting its guard down and sees the issue as an existential threat to its fate, which may force it to take action. The message should be transmitted that Israel is not waiting for the world's ruling as it has done up until this moment, at least publicly."
Former Israeli Ambassador to Russia Aliza Shenhar told Ynet that Olmert's visit conveyed a sense of urgency and concern, but added that it "was not very effective".
"Russia and China's positions will not change instantaneously," she said. These talks won’t encourage Russia to act differently, but they do show the Russians that we regard them as partners. This is especially important to the Russians, who have lost their pride and want to regain their status as an empire – as an influential superpower."