Major ZOA Lecture: MK Gen. Effie Eitam Warned — “Israel Will Take Action If Diplomacy/Sanctions Fail” To Stop Iran Getting Nuclear Bomb
May 9, 2007

Iran “cannot be compared to any
other regime in modern history”

Israeli Knesset Member, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Effie Eitam, delivered the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) Ben and Esther Chouake Distinguished Lecture last night, entitled, Israel and the West: The Threat from Iran,’ warning that “Israel will have to take action if diplomacy and sanctions fail” to stop Iran getting a nuclear bomb. An enraptured crowd of hundreds filled Manhattan’s Lincoln Square Synagogue to listen intently for over 50 minutes to the war hero and former cabinet minister explain the challenges facing Israel on several fronts, particularly the Palestinian Arabs, Lebanon and Iran. Eitam then stayed for a question-and-answer period which lasted over an hour.

General Eitam stated that the “Iranians are building a nuclear bomb — they don’t need nuclear power for any peaceful purposes, they don’t need it for their economy. If not stopped, they will have a nuclear bomb in 2 to 4 and a half years. If not stopped, that’s what will happen. They are not building it as a deterrent or for the purpose of having a balance of threat — they are building it in order to use it against Israel.”

“Yet people often say, as with Hitler, that ‘he {Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] doesn’t really mean it as a matter of operational intent. It’s for domestic consumption.’ I believe that we should spend some time on these current diplomatic efforts, even though I think they are likely to fail because of the lack of purpose and direction of those who wish to stop the Iranians. The words that are being used telling them to stop will not make them stop or reassess. Many argue that it is better to accept that the Iranian nuclear project cannot be stopped, therefore it is better to work out some form of nuclear deterrent. But this regime cannot be compared to any other regime in modern history, like Russia or China. This is an entirely different phenomenon. Even with mutual nuclear deterrence, as we had with the Soviets in the Cold War, and we are far from that, the regime is still a risk in a way the Soviets were not.

“Having this situation, this regime can contemplate using the bomb and it would be a tremendous mistake to do nothing to stop them while developing some supposed nuclear deterrence. The Iranian regime has no moral barriers whatsoever and little concern for what the consequences would mean for Iran. Before long, a nuclear device in a suitcase could also be used against America and even when that would happen, we couldn’t even necessarily prove it was from Tehran. Israel will have to take action if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”

Other points made by General Eitam in his address:

  • “When I speak to liberal, professional peace-makers, they tell me that ‘perhaps the Iranians are not so extreme, perhaps they are more pragmatic than you imagine. I reply — ‘If I’m right and we pre-empt, we will have dealt with the problem. Perhaps there will be some retaliation — and there will be — but we will have dealt with the threat. But if you are wrong, the problem becomes irreversible — Israel will be a target forever.”

  • “I pray that this country [the USA] which has so many times led a world coalition against evil, will wake up and not accept a nuclear Iran for its long-term existence. Recently, I spoke to the U.S. National Security Council (NSC). I was invited to give my views, the invitation came from U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. I was told at the NSC, ‘We believe we missed some important views by failing to discover the views of right-wing Israelis.’ So I spoke to NSC and State Department, senators and congressmen — and they asked me, ‘Is there a broad consensus in Israel on the need to stop Iran getting the bomb?’ and I was able to tell then, ‘On this we are all united.’

  • “I was invited Ambassador Richard Haass, who was formerly Assistant Secretary of State and Director of its Policy Planning Unit, and presently the director of the Council on Foreign Relations. Haass told me he is recommending to the Bush Administration that it negotiate with Syria and Iran. I asked him, ‘What is the purpose of such negotiations. Do you really suggest we can get something from negotiating with Syria and Iran, two staunch enemies of the U.S.?’ He replied, ‘Yes, in return for a dignified American exit from Iraq, we will get the Iranians to agree to use nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes. And from Syria, we will give them the Golan Heights in return for their stopping to arm and aid Hizballah.’ I told him, so you would give them the Golan, even though they could resume support for Hizballah. Would you then expect them to return the Golan to Israel? And you think Iran will help you in Iraq? If you think that, prepare for another image of Americans being evacuated from rooftops by helicopter, as happened in Vietnam.’

  • “No nation is stronger or more courageous than its leaders. Last year’s Lebanon war could have been a decisive victory — in 2 or 3 days, a week — but a month for this outcome? There was confusion, lack of focus and responsibility. We lost a chance to demonstrate our will and power to re-establish deterrence and we lost that opportunity — no doubt about it.”

  • “Why did the first Israeli-born Israeli generation of leaders fail as state leaders? The nature of the problem is that these leaders born in Israel take Israel for granted and cannot answer this question — for what do we need the state of Israel? When we were children on a kibbutz, we were taught these three things: 1. Israel will be the safest place in the world for Jews — but it isn’t after 50 years; 2. We will be a normal people — but today we are still hated; and 3. We are Israelis and we no longer need Judaism — but there is today no truly distinctive Israeli culture without Judaism being at least a significant part of it. We must change the educational curriculum which has almost completely eliminated the study of Judaism and the Bible. Even the Israeli soldiers’ creed has eliminated any mention of Judaism. The Jews of Israel must be reminded that Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben Gurion, always referred to the Bible as the deed giving the Jewish people its right to a sovereign state in Israel.

  • “We can be proud of our young generation in Israel — often described as not caring about national, patriotic values, of being materialistic and so on. It’s not true. We heard stories of courage under fire in Lebanon last year that will enter the pantheon of Israel and the Jewish people for a very long time. There was a young lieutenant operating behind enemy lines who threw himself on a grenade and absorbed the explosion to save the lives of his comrades. Despite the gloomy mood prevailing in Israel, the fundamentals of society are strong. Over 90% of Israelis supported the war in Lebanon and our young soldiers could not wait to get to the front to defend their country and their people.”

  • [On the controversy over disobeying orders to expel Jews from their homes] “I strongly and consistently opposed it. The army is the only barrier between Israel and its enemies and widespread disobedience would unravel it. I saw the Lebanese army collapse overnight. Obedience is indivisible. You cannot be obedient in one domain but not in another. Commanders also should not give orders they don’t believe their men can carry out. Civil war destroyed the two temples.”

  • “The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister should be replaced tomorrow.”

  • “The Oslo process was a tremendous mistake. I cannot tell you how much harm it has caused and will still cause.”

General Eitam also praised ZOA National President Morton A. Klein as a “personal friend and hero in his own way by raising a sane voice for Israel’s security and paying the price for doing so sometimes. I salute you. The time will come when Israel and the American Jewish community will realize how right and rational you were in your predictions, often more so than many experts.”

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