Israel will study the U.S. position on Iran and decide on its next steps according to its own national interests, National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror said Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the Iranian issue in Washington.
Amidror told reporters in the U.S. capital, “I leave with the sense that we as Israelis have to sit down among ourselves and digest what the Americans told us.”
According to Amidror, the final decision about an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will be made in accordance with Israel’s interests and the fact that Israel was established to enable the Jewish people to defend themselves.
Amidror - who participated in meetings with U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon - said that a significant achievement of the meetings was that at this point, “we are not dealing only with the question of the consequences of an attack on Iran, but it is clear to everyone now that there will be a very high cost if Iran goes nuclear.”
Speaking with Israeli reporters in Washington, Amidror said that both the U.S. and Israeli positions were now clear. “Both sides understand the situation. There is a difference of opinion between those who are far from the Middle East and those who are living in the Middle East. There is of course a difference between a superpower with tremendous capabilities and a smaller country, but under no circumstances should this difference curtail Israel’s ability to make its own decisions on such matters. Perhaps this sounds like a slogan, but it is not,” Amidror said.
Amidror said that Israel did not ask the U.S. to attack Iran, and also did not hear a U.S. refusal to do so. “We did not ask the U.S. to do anything. In my view, the aim of the meeting with Obama was achieved. It is now clear that Iran is the main issue and the positions of both sides are understood.”
Commenting on Iran’s willingness to renew talks with the West, Amidror told Israel Radio on Wednesday that Israel supports talks with Iran, but must be aware of the possibility that the talks will fail, leaving Israel without a military option. The Iranians, he said, will not give up their nuclear program through talks.
"I'm very happy that they are opening discussions," Netanyahu's national security adviser said.
"There will be no one happier than us, and the prime minister said this in his own voice, if it emerges that in these talks Iran will give up on its military nuclear capability," he told Israel Radio.
Amidror said that, in his opinion, it is not good for Israel to reach a point at which it cannot operate on its own and is thus dependent on the U.S. president’s decision.
"It should be clear that without a real military alternative, the Iranians will not relent in the negotiations. And without there being a serious alternative, they will not enter the negotiations, and in any event there has to be readiness for the negotiations failing," Amidror said.
Amidror added that the Israeli delegation to Washington headed by the prime minister had no intention of presenting red lines to the U.S. administration or requesting a green light to strike Iran, as some Israeli media reports suggested.
According to Amidror, the working relationship between Obama and Netanyahu is excellent and the discussion between them was equally good.
After his meeting with Obama on Tuesday, Netanyahu met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as senior members of the Senate and Congress, and is expected to return to Israel Wednesday evening.
“I want to thank you for your support. I will return to Israel with the feeling that we have great friends in Washington,” Netanyahu told members of the House of Representatives.
Liran Dan, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s head of communications, said on Wednesday that he does not remember a time when an Israeli prime minister visited the White House and the main topic was not the Palestinians. “The meeting between Obama and Netanyahu went well, and for the first time they discussed the price Israel may have to pay for inaction concerning Iran. This is a topic that will be discussed more often now.”
Speaking on Army Radio, Dan said, "A red light was not given. And if we're already talking about colors, then a green light was not given either. If there are red lines being discussed, they are not between us and the Americans, but rather, between the international community and Iran."
Obama, for his part, rebuffed Republican critics, who said his reluctance to attack Iran was a sign of weakness. Citing the specter of more dead Americans in another Middle East war, Obama addressed his fellow countrymen and said “When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. This is not a game. And there’s nothing casual about it.”
Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany had agreed to a new round of nuclear talks with Iran.
In sitting down with Iran, Ashton said negotiators want “constructive dialogue” that will deliver real progress in resolving the international community’s long-standing concerns on its nuclear program.”
Iran appeared to partially answer concerns Tuesday from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency that it has something to hide, by announcing long-sought access to its Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran. The IAEA has singled out the complex, which Iran had long refused to open for inspection.
Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, said the onus would “be on Iran to convince the international community that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called for a diplomatic solution. “A nuclear-armed Iran must be prevented,” he said.