image Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Israeli Ministry of Defense; Reuters

Gantz: Iran is close to nuclear capacity

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with the ambassadors of European Union countries for a town-hall briefing and Q&A session on Thursday, when he stressed that “Even though we might differ on policy and approach at times, there is a strong basis of shared values and interests.”

“Recent events have highlighted the common challenges, like extremism and fundamentalism, and also the potential for positive change and the shift toward dialogue and normalization, which should be supported and encouraged all around,” he said.

According to a statement sent to TV7 from the Defense Ministry, Gantz warned the EU envoys that “Iran is close to nuclear capacity and that would be a global problem, more than it would be an Israeli problem.”

After expressing certainty that the EU and United States share Israel’s “goal of preventing a nuclear Iran, even while there might be differing approaches to achieving that goal,” Gantz said he has “no doubt that any American administration, will act to prevent Iranian nuclear capacity, whether through new or existing means.”

He then asserted that the international community “must continue to apply a maximum pressure policy, while also communicating directly with the Iranian people. Our genuine desire for peace cannot delude us or prevent us from looking at reality in the eyes. Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons could potentially spark a regional arms race and not every agreement will necessarily bring about the desired outcome.”

Turning to the strategic regional shifts and the relations with the Palestinians, Gantz said Israel’s Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain represent a conceptual and operative paradigm shift toward Israel’s pursuit of regional peace. “The process may be gradual, but it will evolve over time, and offer an alternative vision for how we can all live together in this region. This is true of our relationship with the Palestinians as well,” he stressed.

“We need to be able to apply a new concept whereby we live together, but separately,” said the Israeli Defense Minister, explaining that, “We need to find the route to Palestinian sovereignty that does not jeopardize Israeli security. The only way to get there is through long-term dialogue. The Palestinians will not find a more receptive partner in the current government than me, and I hope they will take advantage of the opportunity to move themselves forward and leave rejectionism aside. Dialogue is the only path to resolution.”

While addressing the “unnecessarily poor” conditions in Gaza, Gantz said he would “like to see economic development and conditions improve” and “would never stop extending humanitarian aid.” He went on, however, to stress that his “sole concern is with security,” and said that Israel should “make quiet and the return of Israeli fallen soldiers and captives a precondition for aid, and Europe can help communicate that.”

The Israeli Defense Minister also shared a map of ammunition caches in Lebanon based on Israeli intelligence, which he described as “a disaster waiting to happen.” Saying “There are too many homes in Lebanon that also serve as arms depots,” he called on the European diplomats to communicate to their governments, as well as Beirut’s, that Lebanon is “accountable for the activity on its soil.”

“At the same time,” said Gantz, “ know new voices are emerging from within Lebanon and we have even begun to enter dialogue on maritime borders. I believe we can both learn from that type of process that dialogue is possible and productive. And were the Lebanese government to cease to be under the influence of Iran and Hezbollah, we could take an entirely different course toward dialogue and cooperation.”