Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said on Monday that U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference on Sunday was a defining moment.
“We have experienced one of the defining moments of Obama's term in office,” Shalom told Arutz Sheva in an interview, noting what he called “the bad time period between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Obama,” referring to the time period after Obama began his term as President. Shalom mentioned Obama’s trip to Cairo in 2009 and his decision not to take advantage of that trip to visit Jerusalem as well as being one of the reasons for that "bad time period."
However, Shalom said, these days Israel and the U.S. are closely coordinated around the Iranian nuclear issue.
“[Obama] said some very significant things,” noted Shalom. “He said that America will not accept a nuclear Iran, he said that Israel has a right to defend itself and its sovereignty, he said that all options are on the table and that he means it. From this perspective we see a real change. It took a long time to convince the U.S. that the Iranians have a military nuclear program, and now we must stop the Iranian nuclear program and all avenues are open.”
As for Obama’s motives which led to the change in his position, Shalom said he believes that at the beginning of his presidential term, Obama wished to realize his democratic perception and reconcile with the Muslim world, but that he realized that this is not possible. Obama also understood, according to Shalom, that dialogue with Iran will not lead anywhere and that the real Iranian objective is simply to gain more time to achieve its nuclear goals.
Minister Shalom also noted that Obama has also realized that the Muslim world is filled with turbulence and that the only island of stability in the area is actually Israel. This is especially true in light of the fall of the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia, both of whom were previously close allies of the United States.
Shalom also addressed the criticism by opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni, who on Monday accused Netanyahu of “meddling in American politics.” He said that he believes Livni’s comments came because of the upcoming primaries in the Kadima party and her desire to create headlines.
Another issue he addressed is the issue of Jonathan Pollard, which Shalom said is “intolerable.”
“There is no situation in which an American citizen sits in prison without the possibility of getting out,” he said. “And he passed information to a friendly country, not to Russia, China or hostile countries like Iran. After 27 years it’s time to release him. His health situation is bad and this cruelty is intolerable.”
Minister Shalom said that the Pollard issue should be raised at every meeting with the American leadership and noted that he himself has done so.
President Shimon Peres formally asked Obama to release Jonathan Pollard during their meeting at the White House on Sunday.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu raised the issue as well during his meeting with Obama on Monday. Following the meeting, Netanyahu told reporters, “I have worked for his release in the past, and always will work for his release.”