The last part of my Aspen Ideas Festival interview with Michael Oren, the new Israeli ambassador in Washington, focused on the most dangerous threat to Israel's existence: Iran.
Jeffrey Goldberg: Existential
threats to Israel. Iran, obviously, is at the top of the Prime Minster's list,
at the top of most Israelis'.
Michael Oren: And a lot of Arabs' lists.
JG: And a lot of Arabs' lists as well. Go through the existential threats
very quickly, if you could, and your view of those existential threats, and
talk about the current moment in Iran and the specific question on Iran -- that is, do
you agree with the Obama administration's approach to the current crisis in Iran?
MO: Israel has supported the Obama administration's approach of outreach and
engagement with Iran. We believe that the president has America's best interest
at heart, we believe he has the interests of the region at heart, we are
concerned. We are concerned about the timing and the time-line of this
engagement. There are clocks ticking all around. One of those clocks is the Iranian
enrichment clock, which will show that, by a certain date, the Iranians will
have sufficient, highly enriched materials to create a bomb that could
literally wipe Israel off the map in a matter of seconds, that they could
accomplish, in a matter of seconds what they deny Hitler did, and kill 6 million
Jews, literally. We have that clock.
We are anxious also that Iran, in the
course of this engagement, shows a change of policy in the region, [in] its
support of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, that are also trying to
wipe Israel off the map. Now we are particularly concerned, and the American
administration is concerned as well, in light of recent events in Iran.
Everyone's waiting, everyone's seeing what's going to come out of this
situation in Iran. But while we're waiting, while we're watching, the clocks
are still ticking in Iran.
JG: Do you believe that President Obama was strong enough in his support,
moral support, for the Iranian people? Do you think there's more that President
Obama could do?
MO: I'm not going to second-guess President Obama's positions on Iran. I
think his last statement was very clear, very adamant in his condemnation of
the regime's suppression of peaceful demonstrators in Tehran and other cities.
I think it's very important, again, that we watch carefully what happens in
Iran, on one level the events in Iran have unmasked to the world, to anybody
whoever doubted the true nature of the regime. This is a regime that's willing
to kill its own citizens, that will certainly have no compunctions about
killing other peoples in the region, Jews and Sunni Arabs alike. On the other hand,
we have to watch and see whether there's a breakdown of rule in Iran, whether a
supposedly moderate leadership emerges, which would be welcome, but if that
moderate regime does not moderate Iranian behavior, it would further complicate