Iran: Israeli military strike against nuclear program would be 'fatal mistake'

By Amos Harel

Haaretz

Tevet 23, 5766

Iran on Sunday said Israel would be making a "fatal mistake" if it resorted to military action against Tehran's nuclear program, and dismissed comments on the issue made by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as a "childish game."

On Saturday, Mofaz said "Israel will not accept Iran's nuclear armament," and added that Israel was prepared for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Mofaz, speaking at the Herzliya Conference, said that although Israel is currently satisfied with the international diplomatic efforts aimed at containing Tehran's nuclear program, Israel must prepare to defend itself.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Israel was only trying to add to Western pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear program.

"We consider Mofaz's comments a from of psychological warfare. Israel knows just how much of a fatal mistake it would be [to attack Iran]," Asefi told reporters. "This is just a childish game by Israel."

Israel, which views Iran as a major threat, has joined Washington in charging that Tehran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for electricity generation.

Mofaz said that Iran poses a threat not only to Israel, but to the entire world. He regarded Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "an oppressor" and Syrian President Bashar Assad as "an optometrist with no vision."

The defense minister reiterated his accusations that Iran funds terror against Israel, a claim he made Thursday after Islamic Jihad carried out a suicide bombing in southern Tel Aviv.

According to Mofaz, Iran last year transferred $100 million to Hezbollah to fund terror activities, some of which was transferred to Palestinian organizations. Islamic Jihad, he said, received more than $10 million from Iran and Hezbollah last year.

The speech addressed the Iranian people directly, with Mofaz saying, "Ahmedinejad, his hallucinatory statements, his criminal actions and his extreme views will bring disaster upon you. Do what you understand needs to be done in order to prevent this."

Mofaz also said Ahmedinejad should look at historical examples of others who tried to destroy the Jewish people.

"You, who are leading your country in an ideology of hatred, terror and antisemitism. You had better take a glance at history and see what became of tyrants like you who tried to annihilate the Jewish people. They only brought destruction upon their own people," he said.

Ahmedinejad has said that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and has questioned whether the Holocaust took place.

Regarding relations with the Palestinians, Mofaz said that if it becomes evident that there is no peace partner, Israel must "take fate into her own hands."

Such a move, he added, would include a withdrawal to defensible borders while strengthening West Bank settlement blocs, demilitarization of Palestinian areas, and protecting a united Jerusalem. To do so, U.S. and international backing will be needed, he said, and added that he believes that such a move would be widely supported by the Israeli public.

Also scheduled to appear at the Herzliya Conference, which is set to last four days, are Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyhau and Labor Chairman Amir Peretz.

Among the issues to be discussed are Iran's nuclear armament and its strategic implications, Israel's standing in Europe and the U.S. and a debate on defining Israeli territory, which will consider the question of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Jewish people.