Israel's Intelligence Chief on Iran, Settlements, & Peace Prospects

Meridor: Let me say this much: I think Iran shouldn't be allowed to become a nuclear power. This is not only an issue for Israel but for the whole world. It would be a victory for the extremists over the moderates in the Arab world. This worries the moderate Arab countries more than anything else. It would change the equilibrium in the Middle East; it would mean the end of the (Nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty; it would be a serious threat for us. One shouldn't forget that Iranian President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad has repeatedly spoken about the illegitimacy of Israel and its destruction. But we should concentrate now on harsher sanctions against Teheran, with America leading the way. And we are counting on the Europeans to follow with serious actions. This includes Germany, which is one of Iran's very important trading partners.

SPIEGEL: But what if the sanctions fail to divert Iran from its present course? Will Israel attack alone? Or only with the consent of the US?

Meridor: I don't want to go into this. But we all see the clock ticking -- and Netanyahu knows what he's doing.

SPIEGEL: At the moment, he is much more popular in Israel than he is abroad. Are you worried that Netanyahu might get a somewhat cool reception in Berlin?

Meridor: No. Germany is one of Israel's best friends. And, all in all, I am quite optimistic that things in the Middle East will develop in a positive way. There's something in the air.

SPIEGEL: Really? Could Marwan Barghouti, the intifada leader who is currently serving five life sentences for murder in an Israeli jail, be released and become a respected Palestinian leader and partner for peace? Many think that he has become a moderate, and the Fatah Party's congress held in early August voted him into its Central Committee with the third-best results of any candidate.

Meridor: I've heard similar ideas.

SPIEGEL: Many people think that both the Palestinians and the Israelis have made peace with the status quo and are not prepared for any more painful compromises. Are they right?

Meridor: For us, the status quo is a bad option. We need to change it -- and take risks. But we must take into account the lessons we've learned from the past.

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