Israeli Cabinet ministers played down the tensions between Israel and the United States over a possible strike in Iran, as they responded to questions by reporters about statements made last week by the U.S. military's top officer.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said on Thursday that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities "clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear program.” He added: "I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it."
The ministers also responded to reports that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation in a massive joint military exercise with Israel, scheduled for October.
The ministers said that despite differences between the two countries over Iran, the relations between the U.S. and Israel remain strong and cooperation is good.
“All in all, the strategic and defense relations between Israel and the United States have remained as strong as they have ever been,” said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. “The cooperation is very good, and also my in contacts with senior officials in the United States I don’t hear of any unprecedented crisis in the relations. I hear it in the media. I don’t see it in reality.”
His words were strengthened by Environment Minister Gilad Erdan who said, “I don’t think there’s an American signal here. There are internal American issues with which we do not interfere. This drill is still the biggest defense drill ever held between Israel and the United States. It’s true that the statements by the American Chief of Staff regarding a possible attack on Iran aren't consistent with what the White House Spokesman said regarding the intensity of the relations with the United States, but we are still very proud of the fact that the security cooperation between Israel and the United States has reached unprecedented records during the term of the present government.”
He added, “I still think that our policy that Israel has the right to maintain its right and its responsibility for the security of the citizens of the State of Israel is the right thing. That’s how Israel acted in the past and here, too, Israel won’t place its security in the hands of any decision maker of any other country, friendly as he may be towards Israel.”
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom noted that Israel and the United States are in full agreement that Iran cannot be nuclear, adding that the only disagreement is about the timetable.
“We, today, need to take one more step, which is crippling sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank,” he said, adding, “This may lead them to the change, because as of right now, Iran is sure that a nuclear bomb is a certificate of insurance for the regime’s existence, and we need to bring them to completely change their mind and think that only abandoning the nuclear program may save the regime’s existence.”