Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned Tuesday of the world's lack of awareness of Iran's support of terror, saying that the Islamic republic is conning the international community about its true intentions.
"No one is talking about the terror (Iran) is nurturing in Iraq or Syria or through the Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Its aim, the formation of a Shi'ite-Iranian caliphate, has not changed. They are deceiving the international community. It is a messianic and apocalyptic regime that denies Israel's existence – and this is the number one threat to the world and the region."
Regarding the Geneva agreement between Iran and world powers over the former's nuclear ambitions, Ya'alon warned that the pressure on Iran had been lifted when an interim agreement was signed in November.
Ya'alon, who made his comments at a conference on security at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the Middle East is changing, thanks to the power of the street.
"The era of dictators' reign is over," he said. "We've seen the attempt at Hamastan in Gaza, and in Egypt the people topped the Muslim Brotherhood... (People) want democracy and peace now, but it doesn't work like that. We're looking at the long-term."
He also lashed out at critics in Israel, saying the world was influenced by a "delegitimization campaign which is based on a false Palestinian narrative." He adamantly rejected accusations of apartheid, arguing that the country's sole motivation was to defend its population.
"If this is apartheid, why are the Africans coming here? Enough with the lies. We have already said we have no desire to control (the Palestinians). I was the Judea and Samaria commander in 1993-1992 and I supported Oslo and until today I think human life is more valuable than land. But until we returned to Jenin (during a major 2003 IDF operation) all we got was terror attacks… it was unstable. Those who say 'get out of there and will be peace,' I can prove that they are mistaken."
Regarding the conflict with the Palestinians, Ya'alon said 2013 was an especially calm year, in which Israel was not forced to engage in any massive military operations. Economic development, he said, was the key to maintaining this quiet.
"Deep focus on economic development and the (Palestinians') ability to influence the world economy is what will foster change. The people have become an important actor. There is the media and an influx of ideas that influence the people, and it has reached the street. The economy is a leading factor in pushing people onto the street. Iran is now talking with America, which what it calls the great satan, only for economic reasons. This is key to understanding developments in the Middle East."
He also warned of a new US shift to "distancing itself from conflict regions. It is no longer keen on being the world's policeman, and as a superpower it is challenged in Syria by Russia, and in Asia by China. But there is no one willing to step into its shoes. We need to take into account that for good or ill, the US is less dependent on Middle East oil."
The defense minister caused a storm last week after he was quoted as saying US Secretary of State John Kerry's proposed security arrangements for a framework agreement with the Palestinians was "not worth the paper it was written on" and that Kerry's efforts to make peace were "obsessive" and "messianic."
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Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, head of the INSS opened its conference by addressing the issue of the Jordan Valley.
"IDF troops should stay in the Valley to prevent weapon smuggling and entrance of terrorists into the West Bank," Yadlin said, noting that the State must "keep an area that would be used as a bargaining chip for future negotiations on a permanent agreement, and the civilians that will be evacuated from must be treated in the most appropriate and respected manner."
In his speech, Yadlin reviewed 2013, to which he referred as "very good," in respect to Israel's national security, due to the fact that, he said, a war did not break out, a military operation was not conducted and the borders remained quiet.
Later Tuesday the INSS will air a prerecorded interview with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.