"The State of Israel faces threats, challenges and opportunities. We live in a tough environment. This isn't western Europe or North America. There is no mercy for the weak here, and no second chance for those who can't defend themselves," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday evening in a conversation with reporters shortly before the commencement of Remembrance Day.
"There are threats aimed at Israel and there are threats than endanger the entire world order," said Barak. "Both Pakistan and Iran belong in those two categories. We must monitor them, and we must know what to do – if it needs to be done. For us, Iran is much more relevant (a threat) than Pakistan."
Barak further discussed the Iranian threat, saying that he would urge the United States to set a timetable for the proposed negotiations with Tehran.
"Meanwhile, alongside this, the international community must prepare a package of stringent sanctions, should the dialogue fail," the defense minister said, adding that a package of economic sanctions should already be implemented.
Israel, he stressed, "is not taking any options off the table."
As for the stagnated peace process, Barak said: "Alongside the efforts to prepare for any defense challenge, Israel must never ease up on the effort to achieve an arrangement with its neighbors. We have peace with Egypt and with Jordan, we've had in-depth talks with the Palestinians and the Syrians, and we must finish the job.
"I am convinced that in the coming years we'll be dealing with a regional peace and cooperation agreement for the whole Middle East. This will advance the Palestinian track as well as, in the right time and way, the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, and it will also advance the normalization of our ties with the rest of the Arab world, from the Middle East to North Africa."
Barak's statements came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was delivering a harshly-worded address in which he vowed he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish nation.
The defense minister ended on a more positive note however. "We are the strongest country in the Middle East. We have proven that over the past two years as well, in the North, the South and in other places. Despite all the challenges that lay ahead, and despite the day-to-day difficulties, we can look ahead with confidence and hope."