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February 3, 2014 11:00 am

Israeli Defense Minister Ya’alon Sits in Front Row for Iran Foreign Minister Talk

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. Photo: Reuven Kapuscinski.

During Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s appearance as part of a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, a surprise guest seated himself in the front row: Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Zarif was unfazed by Ya’alon’s presence, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Monday. The Foreign Minister went on to say that his country is ready to proceed with negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, claiming that the Islamic Republic’s ruling regime is interested in reaching a balanced, long-term agreement with the West, Ma’ariv said.

According to Zarif, Iran and the Western powers are at a historical crossroads. “I think there is an opportunity here and I think we should take advantage of it,” he said.

Following Zarif’s panel discussion, Ya’alon took center stage in a conversation regarding the state of the current Palestinian Authority-Israel peace talks. The Defense Minister said that Israeli withdrawal from lands located over the Green Line will remain a non-starter so long as the PA refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. He added that recognition and security arrangement guarantees from the Palestinian Authority are nonnegotiable.

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Regarding the prospects of a peace treaty being signed, Ya’alon took an ambivalent tone: “I hope we get it, but if not we’ll manage.”

While Ya’alon supports the current round of U.S.-backed framework agreement talks, he expressed doubt in the good faith of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that, “We need to tell the truth and not deceive ourselves about Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Israel’s Defense Minister concluded his remarks by posing a rhetorical question to the assembled audience: “Is Mahmoud Abbas willing to recognize our right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people? The answer is clear: never.”

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