As the director of Mossad (1998-2002) and subsequently as the head of Israel’s National Security Council, Efraim Halevy was at the forefront of Israeli intelligence, politics and international relations for decades. Having served as envoy and confidant to five Israeli prime ministers, he is credited with almost single-handedly orchestrating the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. He offers some solutions to end the West Asia conflict.
EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
What made you realise that dialogue is the only way out?
I reached this conclusion based on my experience. I was involved in dialogues with many of my enemies and, among other things, I had a dialogue with the late King Hussein of Jordan. I found that it was possible both to be influenced by what he had to tell me and to influence his thinking. This resulted in the Israel-Jordan treaty. I felt that this could be emulated in other areas. Ultimately, since the alternative is fighting for the rest of our lives, this is the better way.
Are you apprehensive about Iran’s nuclear programme?
Let there be no questions about it, I oppose the military nuclearisation of Iran. I think it is a threat to Israel and all the West Asian countries at loggerheads with Iran, such as Saudi Arabia. Obviously it concerns the US because Iran has been developing ballistic missiles of a range that could reach American shores. There are no plausible reasons or justifications for Iran to be doing this and, therefore, we consider ourselves threatened. We haven’t reached the point where we have to consider force in order to prevent it, but the option of force has to be credible, viable and reliable, and the Iranians have to realise it. Having said that, I think we should talk to them in order to impress upon them that this is not just wild talk, this is very serious and they can court disaster for themselves and their people if they do not step back and reconsider in a very serious manner what they are trying to do.
What about Pakistan’s nuclear designs?
When Pakistan began developing the bomb, they spoke about the ‘Islamic Bomb’ and this was something that concerned us very much. We were also concerned by the fact that AQ Khan set up what was supposedly a non-governmental network in order to provide countries with nuclear capabilities. The beginnings of the centrifuge programme in Iran, Iraq and Libya were Pakistani and this is something that we believe is unacceptable. Pakistan has now embarked upon a very ambitious programme for the next decade and the assumption is that it may become the third largest nuclear power in the world. The fear is that they may be using this stockpile to export nuclear capability, or part of it, the way AQ Khan did, and this is something that concerns us.
With the continued Israeli expansion in the West Bank, do you think a two-State solution is possible?
The political scene in Palestine is divided into two, West Bank is under one rule and Gaza is under another. It is difficult to negotiate when your partner doesn’t represent all Palestinians. It will be difficult for a government that wishes to implement a two-State solution to take steps in order to prevent expansion when nothing is happening on the other side. Now we have the problem of how to start talking. I think the Palestinians are making a fatal mistake by setting pre-conditions such as freezing settlements and so forth. By not talking, you are actually helping those who want to expand settlements. (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas should know that every day that he holds back from negotiations, he is aiding those on both sides who don’t want a settlement.
Avalok Langer is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.