United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to meet Tuesday on a variety of issues with a parade of Israeli officials, headed by Prime Minister-designate and Likud party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat are also on the list to meet with the new Secretary of State.
Talks are expected to range from discussions on the situation in Gaza to the specific role of Dennis Ross, Clinton's new Special Advisor on Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia affairs, which has yet to be officially defined.
But the matter of prime importance to the Jewish State will be the issue of Israel's "red lines in the sand" regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, listed in a document produced last week by Israeli defense officials, the major points of which were published in the Hebrew-language daily Ha'aretz. Olmert, Livni and Barak all approved the document and reportedly will present a united front on the issue in their individual talks with Clinton.
Israel's 'Red Lines' on Iran
Foreign Ministry and defense officials have briefed Netanyahu on the points of the document to be presented to the new American Secretary of State:
• Harsher sanctions must precede and accompany any dialogue with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear development program. This includes discussions involving the United Nations Security Council, as well as others outside that framework. Any lack of increased sanctions will be perceived by Iran – as well as by others in the international community – as weakness, and de facto acceptance of its nuclear activities.
• Israel urges the U.S. to formulate a contingency plan with the permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France – which will detail actions to be taken if talks with Iran fail, prior to their commencement. Israel recommends extremely harsh sanctions in the event of diplomatic failure.
• A specific time limit must be set for talks with Iran in order to prevent the Islamic Republic from spinning out negotiations long enough to complete its development of any nuclear weapons. Israel urges the U.S. to define such talks as a "one-time-only" opportunity for Iran.
• Consider whether it is prudent to begin talks with Iran before the country's presidential election in June. Timing is key.
Time is Running Out
Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin has expressed the view that diplomacy with Iran still represents an opportunity, rather than a threat, although others in the defense establishment are more wary.
Defense officials have estimated that Iran has yet to reach a point where it can gather enough uranium to build a nuclear bomb. The current thinking in Israel's defense establishment is that Iran won't have that capability until late 2009 or early 2010.
However, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) both disagree. U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen told CNN earlier this week that Iran has already obtained enough uranium for one weapon. Moreover, the IAEA reported two weeks ago that the Islamic Republic has significantly increased its stock of low-enriched uranium, to 1,010 kilograms – according to some experts, enough to convert into high-enriched uranium for at least one bomb. The IAEA said that it did not find signs that Iran was taking the additional steps needed to bring that uranium to weapons grade.
On Wednesday, Clinton is scheduled to meet in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials.