NEW YORK – Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations says Jerusalem believes diplomacy is the preferred course to resolve the current nuclear standoff with Iran.
“We should really pursue and focus on the sanctions and the diplomatic elements in trying to bring the regime in Tehran to reassess the way they want to go forward,” explained the Israeli diplomat.
The emphasis on the diplomatic option would appear to be a shift toward the position of the Obama administration which has stressed stepping up the diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“We are very keen, very clear in saying there is still a lot to be done on the diplomatic front that is not being done. … It is a pity that this has taken so much time. … But, I think the sanctions, especially those on the central bank of Iran, can be very effective. We have to pursue that,” said Prosor in an exclusive interview Friday.
Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are to meet and confer on a host of topics this week in Washington.
At the same time, AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most influential lobbying bodies on Capitol Hill, holds its yearly convention in Washington.
Addressing the conference, Obama said:
“A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national-security interests of the United States.”
The Obama-Netanyahu meeting comes just ahead of “Super Tuesday” which is expected to narrow down the remaining candidates to challenge Obama’s bid for re-election in November.
Israel, Iran and Syria are just a few of the topics under debate and Prosor admitted U.S. presidential politics have impacted on the situation.
“Israel is a very vibrant democracy and is completely aware of the constraints of an election year. We know from our own experiences what can or cannot be done … but, the [U.S.-Israel] relationship is so deep and important that it will override anything else.”
Prosor’s comments came on the heels of recent proclamations by Tehran that it has accelerated its nuclear program by adding a new generation of centrifuges, used to enrich uranium, and raising its current uranium enrichment operation to 20 percent, just shy of the amount needed for nuclear weapons, according to the Pentagon.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. atomic watchdog, recently concluded yet another round of meetings in Tehran with no new progress in visiting several controversial Iranian nuclear installations.
Prosor admitted the apparent acceleration of Iran’s nuclear “research” has become a major worry for Jerusalem:
“The Iran nuclear-weapons program is moving forward like a train in the express lane … or if you want the European equivalent … it is like the Eurostar. … It is very fast, it is very clear … it is moving fast in the express lane forward … and the international community at this stage is moving like a local train. … It stops at every station.”
That, says the Israeli, is a dilemma for the nations across the world:
“The international community really needs to weigh in and put pressure on the Iranian regime, it has no red line … this a huge threat to the whole strategic environment.”
While Israel worries about Iran, it has decided to keep the unraveling situation in neighboring Syria at arms length.
Late last week, the U.N. and the Arab League saw its efforts to defuse the de facto civil war sidelined by Damascus, at least temporarily.
The chief of U.N. humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos and the newly appointed U.N.-Arab League special envoy, Kofi Annan, were both denied entry to the country. Officially, the Syrian government requested more “clarifications and details” on their proposed visits.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon told reporters he was “disgusted” by the Syrian stall tactics and demanded both officials be admitted “immediately.”
Prosor made it quite clear Israel intends to steer clear of any direct involvement in the Syrian conflict up to and including the acceptance of any refugees:
“Iran, in a sense, is sending its tentacles into Syria.. … It is not a secret that the Iranians are in Damascus helping out the regime of Bashar al-Assad to slaughter his own people. … Israel should not be on the front line on this, we should not be in a situation to make points or score points. It goes way beyond that. No one should be able to use the humanitarian situation for his own interests.”
Iran’s United Nations mission refused to offer any reaction to the Israeli ambassador’s comments.