'Axis of Unholy Lands broken, but Israel still has enemies' – Israeli deputy PM

Israel has many enemies and it needs to defend itself, Dan Meridor, deputy prime minister of Israel, told RT. He believes the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis is now broken and Tehran will be compelled to give up its nuclear ambitions without a war.

­The Israeli politician explained why Iran should not possess nuclear weapons, whereas Israel, though never confirming it, has a moral right to possess nukes.

Dan Meridor emphasized his commitment to defeating Iran without military means, but stressed that serious undercover actions are being carried out against the Iranian nuclear capabilities.

RT: A million dollar question: is Israel preparing for war with Iran?

Dan Meridor: The one thing we should not do is to speak on war with Iran.

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'I don’t think that war is something one discusses in good families and public.'

­I think it is wrong. The Iranian issue is the most important issue we are dealing with. The nuclearization of Iran becomes the most important issue of international politics. We’re trying as much as we can with the rest of the world in order to stop Iran from becoming nuclear.

RT: And yet there has been a lot of war rhetoric from much of Israeli political leadership. On the other hand people like yourself have come on record and said that you would not support a war with Iran. Are we seeing disagreement in Israeli political rank?

DM: The issue of Iran is of great importance. If there is determination and resolve and persistence in the world – we will see an unprecedentedly broad coalition. All the Arab world but Syria, most of the West, I believe other countries as well. Russia was on it two years ago in the Security Council. All of us together have enough leverage to convince Iranians they are going to pay a heavier and higher price if they don’t stop this attempt to get nuclear.

RT: But none of Iran’s critics, including Israel, have given hard facts that prove that Iran’s intention is to build a nuclear weapon or that Iran is near building a nuclear weapon. Why is there so much fear and concern?

DM: First of all we have no doubt that Iran wants to have a nuclear weapons. The IAEA published a report last November saying [Iran] had a weapons group; [the IAEA] described how it worked. Why do we take it seriously? The Iranian leadership, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei, say openly again and again Israel should not exist, that it should be removed as it causes turmoil in the Middle East.

RT: You did admit that Ahmadinejad did not say that Iran would wipe Israel off the map?

DM: He said “we will uproot Israel as a cancerous tumor.” That is a different matter, but not the different contents. He might not have said these words but the content is the same. In their rhetoric there are a lot of statements that Israel should not exist.

RT: In 2008 interview Ahmadinejad was asked that if the Palestinian leaders agreed to a two-state solution, could Iran live with that? And his answer was [that] Iran would respect this decision. Does that suggest there is a tiny opening for dialogue between Israel and Iran?

DM: Again and again, I heard him two or three weeks ago. I have 20 or 30 statements by him saying in clear terms that Israel is not legitimate and should not exist. What is it if not a direct threat against our existence?

RT: Iran has not attacked anyone in recent history, why would it attack Israel if Israel does not attack Iran first?

DM: Iran has not attacked Israel directly. Iran is supplying weapons, the most advanced kind they have, to our enemies, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. Again and again, Iran is threatening the Saudi Arabian government – why is that, if they never attack anybody?

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'Why is the Arab world in such a turmoil and fear of the Iranian domination?'

RT: Israel is thought to have several hundred nuclear weapons. Is this not a question of double standards? Why should Israel be allowed to have it whereas Iran cannot?

DM: We never said we have nuclear weapons, we never said we haven’t. We don’t react to this, this is a fact. But isn’t it interesting that all the Arab countries who might think that we have nuclear weapons, though we never confirm or deny, never say if Israel has it – we will have it. But when they hear Iran is going to get [nuclear weapons], they say if Iran is going to get it – we will get it. Isn’t that a real sign and a proof that the real danger for the stability and peace in this region for these regimes is Iran, not Israel?

RT: If there was a strike (on Iran) – what would it look like? Are we talking about some kind of Israeli air strike or would Israel consider sending in ground forces?

DM: We do not speak of a military option at all, neither in general nor in specific terms. I don’t think it is going to help us.

I’m very hopeful the sanctions will work.

RT: [Even] when sanctions just make Iranian nationalists close rank and support their government more fervently?

DM: There is another way to do this. If sanction does not work and we do not speak of military option – what are the other options? Iran was ordered by the UN Security Council not to enrich [uranium] – and they are enriching and do not listen.

RT: The US is building a missile defense shield in the Persian Gulf. What would be the purpose of this if Israel has to attack Iran?

DM: I said I won’t speak on the attack on Iran by Israel. And I am not to speak for the American defense establishment and the American president. It is interesting, that America and the Arab countries are in full agreement about the development in Iran and that it needs to be stopped.

RT: Is Israel preparing for an Iranian attack or some kind of Iranian retaliation?

DM: Israel needs to defend itself. Israel never asks anybody to defend it.

'Israel lives in an area in which there are many enemies.'

­I think we see a very positive trend: the Arab countries leaving the camp of denial and negation and coming to the “good guys” camp.

President [Anwar] Sadat of Egypt signed peace with us; King Hussein of Jordan signed peace with us. The people who became rulers after them kept the agreement. We wish it could be kept longer.

RT: There have been comments by leading Israeli figures that the Israeli population has not been told the full consequences of what an attack on Iran would mean. Do you agree with this?

DM: I don’t think I should speak on Israeli attack on Iran. I think this is something an Israeli should not speak of. I am sorry that some of my colleagues did speak and added heat to that. I think it is a mistake… I think the objective is simple: Iran should stop the enrichment and stop building of (nuclear) weapons, missiles and everything that goes with it. How we get it? We need to be very balanced, strong and sophisticated, not only Israel but all those countries.

RT: We just have had a report that the Israeli public is not ready for an attack by Iran, that there are no shelters and gas masks. Why is the Israeli public not being prepared for an attack if there is so much war rhetoric coming from the government?

DM: If the countries of the world were interested in stopping Iran becoming nuclear, as you are persistent in asking me questions about this – we will win, no doubt.

RT: Is there a clandestine war?

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DM: 'No doubt that there are things done against the Iranian nuclear capabilities by all players from the West and other countries.'

­Some of these are on the table, some are under the table, and things are going on. Not everything should be made public but I think this is a very serious matter. I think it should be taken care of very seriously. This includes also some actions and I do not speak of war here.

RT: The US has said it is against a war with Iran. If this remains the situation – would Israel go for it alone?

DM: We have been used sometimes to stand alone – and we stood alone, when other countries promised to help us but did not help. This was the case in 1967 when we were attacked. We had to fight for our own lives and did it successfully, from time to time.

But that is not our idea. Our idea is to have many countries acting for the same goal and we’re part of the coalition. They would not fight for us and they should not, but if they have the same interests that we have, be it Saudis and the Americans, or French, or Germans, or Russians, as it [was] two years ago. A broad coalition is much better than to be on our own. Of course America is an important player in this world, as everybody knows. The American President Barack Obama says that Iran should not be nuclear, [the US] would not tolerate nuclear Iran. Preventing Iran from becoming nuclear is very important.

RT: If we look at Syria, are developments there good or bad for Israel?

DM: First of all they are very bad for Syria. Although Syria is our enemy, they do not like us at all, but we’re neighbors. We all are human beings. And what we see on the screen from Syria is horrendous. It’s not our business to tell Syrians who should rule them. The different perspective we have just spoke of is Iran. Syria is the only Arab country that is ally with Iran. And

'­the axis that was built between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, the Unholy Lands, should I call it.'

­This is a very bad and dangerous axis against us and all the Arab countries. In that respect this alliance between Iran and Syria is broken – this is good for peace, not bad.

RT: Except that a more fundamentalist regime comes to power in Syria?

DM: I said I don’t know who comes next. We have no influence on that. In a paradoxical way, who supports somebody is maybe to his detriment. Because the best thing for somebody will be “We fight the Jews!” So we’re not taking part in that.

RT: What about Israeli-Egyptian relations?

DM: The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was signed 32 years ago and was one of the most dramatic pages of the Middle East history. It changed the Middle East from a very war-like zone to a much more stable and peaceful area. So whoever is in power in Egypt after the next presidential election – we very much hope that the peace treaty is kept. It is not only in our interest, but in the interest of Egypt as well. It is one of the most important goals that we have.