National Press Club

Israeli envoy declares 2013 'year of reckoning' to stop nuclear Iran

February 14, 2013 | By Lorna Aldrich | lorna2@verizon.net

Salman Shoval, Israeli special envoy to the United States and Europe, told a Feb. 13 National Press Club Newsmaker event that 2013 will be "the year of reckoning" when Iran's nuclear ambitions must be stopped.

Iran will be the most important topic between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Barack Obama during Obama's forthcoming visit to Israel, followed by the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the economy, Shoval said.

The issue is not when Iran will build a bomb, but when they will have enough enriched fissionable material to quickly prepare a bomb, he said. "And they are very quickly approaching that moment in time," he added.

He deplored the Palestinians' having made an "end run" to the United Nations to attempt to secure a Palistinian state without negotiations, of their attempting to create a "fait accompli."

Netanyahu has repeatedly declared himself in favor of a two-state solution, the envoy said. Netanyahu viewed the two-state solution as the end stage after other issues had been settled, he added.

Shoval accused the Palestinian leadership of undermining the peace process by setting preconditions.

The Palestinians need to accept the continued presence of Israel and it's potential to benefit them, he said.

Syria is an immediate issue to be addressed at the Obama-Netanyehu meeting because of its stash of chemical weapons and missiles, Shoval said.

He fears unconventional weapons falling into the hands of Al Qaeda connections among the rebels, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might use the weapons or that they could fall into the hands of Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations.

"The danger of unconventional weapons on either side is a threat," he said. He called the situation "a curse on one side and a curse on the other side."

Shoval refuted the position that the Israeli-Palestian issue is the core of problems in the Middle East by pointing to the developments following the Arab Spring.

He likened the situation in some countries to the events following the Russian revolution, which he said was originally democratic but later taken over by the Bolsheviks. Similarly, revolutions that were initially democratic have been taken over by Islamists, he said.

Shoval explained that Israel does not yet have an official government after recent elections because Netanyahu needs to form a coalition with other parties to reach a parlimantary majority.

The envoy expressed certainty that a government would be formed before Obama's visit because recently-elected members of the Knesset would not want to stand for reelection so soon.