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September 24, 2013 7:36 am

On Eve of Rouhani UN Speech Israeli Intelligence Minister Steinitz Lays Down Jewish State’s Conditions (INTERVIEW)

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Israeli minister Yuval Steinitz at the 2012 Innovate. Invest. Israel. Conference. Photo: Israel's Ministry of Finance.

In an interview with The Algemeiner on the eve of Iranian President Rouhani’s widely anticipated speech to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, Israeli Minister of Intelligence, International Relations and Strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, was clear about what his country would like to hear from the newly elected leader of the Islamic Republic.

Beyond the hopeful claims of many that the Iranian leader is more moderate than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Steinitz said the world should judge Rouhani as Israel will, based on hard facts about the country’s nuclear program.

“I will tell you what would be a serious speech,” he said, “The rhetoric will be different, that we know, but rhetoric is far from being enough or sufficient. Let’s wait and see if there will be something different in the substance.”

“I will say that there is a real change in the Iranian attitude on the nuclear issue if Rouhani tomorrow will make one of the following declarations or better, all of them,” he continued. “Either that he will stop enrichment totally, or that he will shift the already enriched material from 3% and beyond outside Iran, or that he will dismantle (the nuclear facility near) Qom and stop the building of (the heavy water reactor in) Arak. If he will do this or at least declare that Iran is going to do at least one of these immediately, this is a different attitude.”

“If he will avoid any such declaration then it is just a show, it’s just rhetoric, but no substantial change,” he added.

The minister’s comments come in the wake of a flurry of conciliatory declarations from Iranian leaders, aimed at assuaging Western concerns over the country’s nuclear program. The gestures, which included a later denied Rosh Hashana greeting to Jews, have led to reports that U.S. President Obama is considering meeting with Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Western diplomats predict that Rouhani’s speech Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly will include an important gesture, perhaps an acknowledgment of the Holocaust.

Hinting at what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu might focus on during his own scheduled speech at the UN on October 1st, Steinitz said, “I don’t wan’t to say what he is going to say, although I was involved in all the preparations, but let me put it like this in my own words.”

“The rhetoric has changed by Rouhani, but with the facts on the ground, which do matter, there is no change at all so far. Rouhani was elected four months ago. The centrifuges are still spinning, not one centrifuge was stopped. On the contrary, since he was elected, the Iranians installed many new centrifuges, many of them new generation and more efficient,” he said.

Steinitz also indicated that Israel would like to see change from Iran on humanitarian issues as well as on the nuclear issue.”(Rouhani) spoke in his interview on NBC about Iran’s desire for peace and (he said that) Iran doesn’t seek any war or conflict with any other state.”

“If, for example, he will announce tomorrow that Iran will stop any military support for (the regime of Syrian leader) Assad, who is killing his own people, his own civilians in Syria, one can then say – it has nothing to do with the nuclear project – but this is a different attitude from Iran. If he will announce from now on ‘we won’t hang, we won’t execute and we won’t persecute homosexuals in Iran,’ you know this is a substantial change,” he said.

Stressing the absolute centrality with which Israel views the issue of Iranian nuclear belligerency Steinitz said that a nuclear Iran would be “a global game changer.”

“Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons and this is going to change the course of history,” he said. “If Iran will go nuclear its going to create a dangerous new world, not just for Israel and the Middle East, but also for Europe and the United States of America.”

Although Iran claims that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful use, Steinitz dismissed the claim emphatically. “People might ask (of Iran), why do you need so many centrifuges? You have so much oil and gas, you don’t need energy, and you have very cheap energy. You and Saudi Arabia are the last two countries that need nuclear energy.”

Comparing the situation with Iran to North Korea, and borrowing a theme likely to be used by Netanyahu, according to reports, Steinitz said that “Rouhani, clearly wants to talk. You know what I will tell you honestly, he wants even an agreement, but what kind of agreement? One should ask himself, an agreement like the one which was achieved six years ago with North Korea?”

“The world should not repeat the mistake of the past. What happened with North Korea was bad enough,” he said referring to the February 2007 U.S. agreement with North Korea under which Pyongyang agreed to close down its nuclear plant in exchange for a resumption of shipments of free oil. “There was an agreement, the world celebrated this agreement even Israel praised this agreement achieved by the United States six years ago, and look what happened.”

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