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May 14, 2014 10:27 am

Israel’s Steinitz Says U.S.-Israel Intelligence Cooperation ‘Better Than Ever’

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz. Photo: Beit Hashalom.

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz. Photo: Beit Hashalom.

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday said co-operation with the U.S. on “security, and especially intelligence, is better than ever,” refuting recent allegations in Newsweek magazine that relations between the intelligence agencies of the two countries have frayed.

Speaking to 2,000 delegates at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum, in Washington, Steinitz said, “In the last few years, under the Obama Administration, the relations have become so close, so intimate, for the benefit of both sides,” according to a statement from the AJC.

Steinitz said that despite occasional differences of opinion between Israel and the U.S., the two allies are engaged in an “ongoing dialogue” over how to get Iran to give up its nuclear program. He said he agreed with U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Before Steinitz came to the podium, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a video message from Jerusalem to tell the delegates that the Iranian nuclear threat is Israel’s “main” agenda item, and urged the global Jewish advocacy organization to continue its efforts to press for maximum pressure on Iran to dismantle its centrifuges.

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Steinitz said that Israel insists on preventing Iran not just from developing a bomb, but from attaining the capability to do so, with complete transparency and international inspections in place. If the current negotiations allow Iran to keep its centrifuges and heavy water reactor, the Islamic Republic would remain “a threshold nuclear power,” poised to quickly develop a bomb, he said.

Steinitz cited the example of North Korea, which had agreed to freeze its nuclear program in 2003, and a few years later announced it had a bomb. He contrasted North Korea with Libya, where nuclear infrastructure was dismantled, as the safer option.

He said that Iran’s neighbors, feeling threatened, would also launch nuclear programs, endangering the stability of the entire region. Should no satisfactory agreement be reached in the current P5 plus 1 talks with Iran, Steinitz said, “We keep our right of self-defense.”

On the once-again-stalled peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, Steinitz said, “We are eager to make peace,” noting that the majority of Israelis are willing to live side-by-side with a Palestinian state. An agreement would have to mark a definitive end to the conflict, he said, recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people—as formulated in the 1947 UN partition resolution—and enable Israel to patrol the Jordan Valley to prevent the smuggling of rockets and missiles.

Steinitz placed the blame for the failure of the recent American peace initiative on PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, “who suddenly decided to leave the negotiating table” after rejecting Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to extend the talks beyond the April 29 deadline.

“Nobody should tell us that we need peace in order to survive, exist and flourish,” Steinitz said. “We will survive. Israel will survive as a democratic Jewish state whether our neighbors will finally agree to accept it and make peace with us or not.”

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