On May 16, two members of the Knesset of the State of Israel came to Tbilisi, Georgia. They met with the Jewish Diaspora and representatives of the Georgian establishment. They also kindly agreed to give us an interview.
Joseph Zaalishvili: The Government of the State of Israel accuses Iran of wanting to build a nuclear weapon. Can you explain why the Israeli administration thinks so? And why this is dangerous not only for Israel, but for the whole world?
Israeli Knesset member Faina Kirshenbaum, Yisrael Beiteinu: It’s very simple. At first, we know that for peaceful nuclear energy Iran needs 5 percent enriched uranium. And the Iranian regime continues to enrich uranium at a rate higher than is needed for peaceful purposes. At this point it is absolutely clear that this is all for nuclear weapons.
It should be clear that the Iranian nuclear program threatens not only Israel. In order to bomb Israel, Iran needs to find a transporter of these nuclear weapons, and yet our data shows that Iran has no such power launcher. They are much more threatened by countries that are in the neighborhood. I believe that Iran’s nuclear program may in the future lead to a new, third World War. This third World War’s result is something that people cannot even imagine. Iran might want to fire nuclear bombs at Israel, but the wave of a nuclear holocaust will come to other countries. And the nuclear horror will cover the whole Middle East and the world. If anyone thinks that this is a regional problem and the problem of Israel, they are very mistaken. Iran’s nuclear program is the problem of the global community. And only united can we can solve this problem.
Israeli Knesset member Orit Zuaretz, Kadima Party: I think that Iran’s nuclear program is not just a problem of the state of Israel. Iran can become a bad example for Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Islamic countries in the region. And this can start a nuclear arms race in the Islamic world. Their final goal will be a Middle East with nuclear weapons and without Israel. Iran could sell or share nuclear weapons and technologies to other countries, too. And Israel is well aware of this.
Kirshenbaum: Iran belongs to the Eastern mentality. And many in Europe and America do not understand this. The value of life is completely different in Iran. The Western world does not understand that it needs to understand the mentality of Iran, and not to judge it by their own mentality, so as to understand the threat posed by Iran and its nuclear program to the whole world.
Some time ago, Turkey, a NATO member, opposed the participation of the State of Israel at the NATO summit. Don’t you think that Islamic factors have affected the decision of the Turkish authorities, as well as the disagreement among NATO countries about whether or not Iran should be given the opportunity to develop nuclear capabilities?
Kirshenbaum: Everything is connected by a red thread. First, let’s talk about what is happening in Turkey. First, in Turkey radical Islam has increased. Everything that Ataturk did is being destroyed now. Turkey in Ataturk’s day turned its face toward Europe. He changed the Turkish alphabet from Arabic to Latin characters. But the main thing was that he reined in Islam.
Now all this is changing. Turkey is becoming a religious Islamic country. Strengthening the Islamic party, of course, affects the state. Turkey aims to become a leader in the Eastern world. And for this it is becoming an Islamic state. There is competition between Turkey and Iran over who will lead the Islamic world. Who will be more radical will be the victor. Who can develop nuclear weapons faster. Muslim countries are working toward being united in an Islamic union, and we can follow this chain of evil from Iran to Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and to Turkey. There is a large Islamic lobby, which has become a political movement and threatens those countries and the values “‹”‹that the Western world and Western civilization represent.
Zuaretz: I think the changes in Turkey and regional changes reflect on Israel very strongly. Because we do feel that this region is becoming Green and Islamic.
This is not related to national identity and cultural values. W”‹e are speaking about Islam: military Islam, radical Islam, and political Islam. We have seen what happened in Egypt. In one day the regime changed. Parties which had been outlawed now have a majority in parliament. The Egyptian Parliament is occupied by Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood has a direct relationship with Hamas in Gaza. And it is against the interests of Israel. Hamas controls Gaza.
We see the long hand of Iranian money, which sponsors terrorism around the world. For us, the important thing is that the country must unite in the fight against terrorism. Israel has great experience in this case.
We know that a few months ago you had the same problem in Georgia, and we are ready to cooperate in our efforts against terrorism. In your country there may be terrorist cells which have not yet manifested themselves, but in a moment they can express themselves. Israel is ready to assist you in finding and destroying these terrorist groups. We can share with our knowledge with Georgia, Azerbaijan, European countries and even the United States.
At the expense of Iran, I might add that this is not only an Israeli task, to clean up the Middle East. I heard officials at the White House telling us, “You should go and bomb Iran.” They’re expecting us to do this. Israeli can defend itself, but it isn’t the task solely of Israel to clean up the Middle East.
Do you think the financial and oil embargo will stop Iran’s nuclear program, when according to the Turkish media, Turkey has increased its purchase of Iranian oil? How effective are these sanctions?
Kirshenbaum: Turkey will not support the U.S. and EU sanctions against Iran. Sanctions may not bring any result if all of the country is impoverished. Americans are told that the Iranian banking system has shut down, and Iran will not be able to transfer money through the U.S. financial system, and Iran has admitted the inspectors to its nuclear objects. Still, Americans think with their Western mentality. Americans think that they have threatened Iran and Ahmadinejad understands everything and all is well. Yet Iran has fooled the observers again, and continues its nuclear program. Every delay in the negotiations helps Iran develop nuclear weapons. If we want to stop this regime, we all need to unite, Europe and the U.S. If we do not stop Iran now, it will soon be too late.
And what then?
Kirshenbaum: Then it will be necessary to take very tough measures.
Zuaretz: We are the only democracy in the Middle East. We not are facing any other democracy in our region. Now we are facing a wave of Islam on Middle East. And the majority of this wave is not peaceful; it is radical Islam. As I said before about the situation in Egypt, It was not an Arab Spring; it is an Islamic Wind or Storm. We cannot see the prosperity of democracy in the region now, and we will not see it for at least another 10 years.
We see a double standard in the politics of the US and the EU. They sponsored those regimes in Middle East and Africa. And the only democracy in the region is now Israel. On the one hand, there are the sanctions against Iran, and on the other hand, Iran has economic relations at the private level with the U.S. and its European allies. My colleagues in Europe said that business with Iran is not on the state level, it is only in the private sector. But is that important? It is important that Iran has received money in different ways, and continues to fund terrorists and it nuclear weapons program.
If we want to gain something, we must join forces. Israel doesn’t want to be the scapegoat in this affair. Together, we must deal with the Iranian nuclear program.
Kirshenbaum: The Arab Spring cannot lead to democracy. Nowhere in the world after a revolution came an era of democracy. Democracy is a product of a free people. Only a free people can build a democratic state. In the Arab world the revolutions are supported by Iran with money and weapons. And we’ll get a Middle East that is completely controlled by the Iranian regime and Islamic Sharia law.