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 our situation.
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