Photo by: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry
‘US will attack Iran if it must’
By HERB KEINON
Senators in Jerusalem to discuss Middle East tensions.
Lieberman, flanked at a Jerusalem press conference by his senate colleagues John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), used very tough language, saying the words “military action” in regards to stopping Iran’s nuclear program. Most US officials opt to tiptoe around the subject, saying “no options are off the table.”
Lieberman said that “a certain trumpet needs to sounded here for the Iranian regime to hear.”
He said the sanctions Congress recently passed against Iran were meant to signal to Teheran to “negotiate the end of their nuclear program and re-entry into the civilized world, if that is possible. But if not, they should know that when Congress says it is unacceptable to get nuclear weapons, we mean it. We hope economic and diplomatic power will work, but if we must use force, that must remain a very active option.”
Regarding Tuesday’s friendly meeting in Washington between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, Lieberman – based on reports he heard from people there – said “it was a positive meeting, and we can say with some encouragement that the relationship between the US and Israel is back on track.”
Lieberman, acknowledging that the past year was a “difficult one” in the US-Israel relationship, said that even during this period “the members of Congress across party lines continued to both feel and express strong support for the security of the State of Israel, and for the relationship.”
Graham was even blunter.
“The Congress has Israel’s back,” he said, “and never misunderstand that. Whatever relationship problems we have had in the past, it has never seeped over into Congress. The Congress has been united in protection of one of our best allies in the world, the State of Israel.”
Regarding another American ally, Turkey, McCain – referring to both Ankara’s vote against Iran sanctions at the UN and its hostile rhetoric toward Israel – said he has been “disappointed recently” by Turkey’s “actions and words.”
At the same time, he said, Turkey is an old and close ally with whom the US has common interests.
“I hope that at some point the Turkish leadership would lower the rhetoric, reduce it to the point where we can try to solve differences in a quiet and diplomatic way,” McCain said.
Asked what would happen to US-Turkish ties if Ankara severed, as it has threatened to do, its ties with Israel, McCain replied, “obviously it wouldn’t be helpful. I hope this won’t be the case. I hope that there will be conversations.” Saying that the Israeli-Turkish relationship has “contributed to stability in the Middle East,” McCain said he found the situation “disturbing,” and said he hoped the US could play an “interlocutor role to bridge some of these differences.”
Fundamentally, McCain said, Turkey remains a secular nation that has “contributed enormously to peace in the region and the world.”
All three senators, who met during their two-day stay with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, praised the US-trained PA security forces.
McCain, in an apparent reference to talk about putting PA security forces at border crossings from Israel into Gaza, said the willingness of Israel to discuss this issue showed the confidence Israel had in these forces as well.