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Iran existential threat? Israel ‘is indestructible,’ shouldn't be governed with ‘holocaust memories,’ says fmr Mossad chief

November 18th, 2013
04:45 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

In making a case against the oft-repeated argument that Iran is an “existential threat” to Israel, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the country “is indestructible” and should be governed with “self-confidence,” not "memories of the holocaust."

As Iran and world powers negotiate a potential nuclear deal, Halevy says that Israel should be engaged rather than sit on the side-lines.

“I think that Iran is a very serious threat,” Halevy said from Tel Aviv. But “I believe that Israel is indestructible. And I think that this should be the basic tenet of every Israeli leader to have self-confidence, and the confidence in the future of Israel.”

That confidence, he said, “has to be the point of departure” for governing the country.

“It is wrong to bring up the memories of the past, the memories of the holocaust of so many years ago, when we were defenseless,” he said. “Then we were defenseless; now we are not defenseless.”

Halevy was born and spent his early years in the U.K., and he spoke with fondness of Winston Churchill.

“The main theme of everything he had to say, in every presentation he made,” he said, was “that whatever happens, we are confident – we the British people, as it was then – are confident that we will be triumphant. And therefore people should have courage in the courage of their conviction.”

Yes, he admitted, there were serious dangers.

“But there was a strong streak of self-confidence, and I believe that if the prime minister [of Israel] were to take that line, he would be rewarded both in the international arena and inside this country.”

Halevy is outspoken in favor of speaking to Israel’s enemies, including Iran.

“I think it’s always the time to talk,” he said. “The only way to convince people of your views is to talk to them.”

World powers are gearing up for another round of direct negotiations with Iran, after foreign ministers left Geneva last earlier this month without a deal.

Not at the table is Israel; the potential deal is being negotiated by Israel and Germany plus the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council: China, France, Russia, the UK and U.S.

Halevy called Israel’s absence at the table a “very fateful decision.”

“None of the countries in the region are at the negotiating table,” he said. “The only country at the negotiating table from the Middle East is Iran. There is a price to pay for this.”

Nonetheless, he said, “we have to have a minimum of trust in those who we have asked to represent us.”

This means that the “test of a good deal is the end game; not just the tactics of how your reach the final conclusion.”

Halevy has also advocated negotiating with the Palestinians; despite some road bumps, there are on-going U.S.-brokered talks under way.

Halevy said that a two-state solution was “least probable but most desirable,” while a single state of Palestinians living in an Israel that encompasses Gaza and the West Bank, was “least desirable but the most probable.”

In an interview with Amanpour on Monday, Israeli economy minister and leader of the hawkish Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett denounced the two-state solution.

“I think trying to enforce [an] artificial state in the heart of Israel, in Jerusalem, is a grave mistake,” Bennett said.

“The fallacy in the argumentation of Mister Bennett,” Halevy responded, “is that he believes that this is a game in which we can dictate to the other side the way in which they should live and the way in which they should govern themselves.”

“They are now a nation, for better or for worse. And we are a nation,” he said. “Ultimately we have to negotiate with them from some point of equality.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iran • Israel • Latest Episode
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. George

    I agree with everything Mr. Halevy says and hope that today's Israel will see herself with lots of confidence and not dwell on the past. I am black and will never again define myself by the colour of my skin.

    What I will add though is for Israel to understand that this deal will NOT be about Israel and what Israel wants. Iran going nuclear is a threat to the whole region and Europe. It is more than Israel. So for once, Israel must accept it is not always about them. It is about all of us. When we see it that way, then we can make a more holistic decision when it comes to the subject of Iran and their nuclear program.

    November 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Reply
    • Aaron

      Really, you are a black African man and you support Apartheid Israel? I don't believe.

      November 19, 2013 at 2:14 am | Reply
      • Uncommon sense

        What offensive nonsense. Arabs in Israel have more rights than in most Arab countries. Try the nearby Islamic regimes for apartheid. Look for freedom of religion in Saudi. Be a Coptic in Egypt. Is you want to find apartheid, look elsewhere.
        Perhaps you are just an anti-Semitic bigot.

        November 19, 2013 at 3:33 am |
      • Thinker23

        I'm not sure what your definition of "apartheid" is but Israel is the ONLY country in the Middle East where ALL citizens have the very same rights regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or gender.

        About the subject of the article I can say that while the deal is not ONLY about Israel it is still about Israel. For the simple reason that Israel CAN NOT AFFORD nuclear Iran and will do whatever it can to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Even if this will require use of force and even if Israel will have to do it alone.

        November 21, 2013 at 6:20 am |
    • tom

      excellent point but nobody on some sides will want to hear it and everybody on other sides will want to hear it .
      I think Mr Halevy has got it spot on but in that region the turmoil is too great to break through /

      November 19, 2013 at 6:29 am | Reply
    • craig.

      there is a war brewing it is yet raging even though unseen.
      these so called allies mouths are filled with the correct words out in the open because of how the World is structerd but as soon as the opportunity arrives they are going to make there true selves known.
      i disagree with Mr Halevy talking on the enemies part are purely symantics.

      November 19, 2013 at 7:44 am | Reply
  2. Sausage Frenzy

    ISreal is a far greater threat to Iran and the region than Iran is to Israel,
    Its ridiculous to pretend only Israel are allowed to defend themselves. Unrealistic and arrogant.

    November 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Reply
    • IDF

      The Iranian Foreign Minister stated last week that Iran's most pressing concern is a Sunni-Shia conflict not Israel.

      November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Reply
      • tom

        Because Syria will get rid of Assad sooner or later and Iran is cut off from the rest of the region by people it helped to oppress for so many years

        November 19, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  3. Michael

    If Israel wanted a 2 state solution, it would stop building on Palestinian land and quit building in the arab portions of Jerusalem. Israel wants to take over the region by attrition, and the US is paying for it.

    November 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Reply
    • David

      There is no " Arab portion of Jerusalem". Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel.

      November 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Reply
    • Paul II

      The only reason there was an "Arab portion" is because the Arabs ethnically cleansed all Jews out of that area in 1948.
      Before that Jews lived there continuously for centuries. Two decades of occupation does not make it "Arab".

      November 18, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Reply
      • Norman

        Are you ignorant or just retarded? Did you really read history or just talk to your Israeli friends to gain the regional knowledge?

        November 18, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
      • Paul II

        Norm, sticks and stones bro. You got facts or just want to call names?

        November 19, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Thinker23

      "If Israel wanted a 2 state solution, it would..."

      If Palestinians wanted a 2 state solution they would stop violence and ask for peace negotiations...

      November 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  4. Nikki

    I certainly agree with Mr Halevy on all accounts that Israel as a nation should not dwell on the past but move forward with confidence, but it seems that always dwell on the memories of the holocaust and moving forward as an arrogant and selfish nation....

    November 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  5. darketernal

    I think the jews should reconsider and think about what they are actually defending and what that represents. The whole ' my religion is better then your religion' needs to go. The only solution i see is for all religions to throw out their seperatist inducing religions and unite back with humanity.

    November 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Reply
    • Marvin Meynard

      Don't forget that Israel is the chosen people of God, you like it or not.

      November 19, 2013 at 12:45 am | Reply
  6. Richard

    No nation is indestructible! Iran seeks nuclear weapons, and it seeks to destroy not only Israel but Western civilization. On November 4th, 2013, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Tehran to scream "Death to America" and "We trample America under our feet."The Iranian government has increased the number and quality of its centrifuges immensely, it has processes plutonium, it has developed advanced ballistic missiles, it has provided troops and funding for a murderous Syrian regime, and it has engaged in numerous human rights violations against its own citizens. I truly wish that we had supported the students who protested against this dictatorial regime in 2009.

    November 18, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  7. Israeli

    With all respect to Efraim Halevy, the guy is living in disney land. We are not indestructible. If Iran somehow detonates a few atomic bombs on our main cities, it is game over for us. We are very strong, but if we see only our strength as Halevy does and if we are blind to how vulnerable to the Shi'ite enemy that wants to erase us from the map, this is crazy thinking. I can't believe we let a guy like Halevy run the Mossad, are we crazy? This is guy does not see a danger even when it slaps him in the face. I won't ignore what history taught me: When evil leaders declare they want to destroy me, I listen to them, and believe them. And stop them. Guess what, in this jungle called the Middle East, it's kill or be killed, or scare them into not trying to kill you. All the nice kumbaya talk is great, in Switzerland. Not here. Look what the Muslims do to each other here. Syria. That's a small hint of what they would do to us, if they could. Halevy is asleep.

    November 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Reply
    • IDF

      You are paraphrasing what he said.

      November 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Reply
      • Silver

        No he's not.

        November 19, 2013 at 2:09 am |
    • Marvin Meynard

      That will no happen because God will no allow it , do you already forgot that God exist?.are really from Israel?

      November 19, 2013 at 12:51 am | Reply
      • Israeli

        Oh please, spare me your children's story on god myths. The last time my people waited for god to help them, they got sent to ovens in Auschwitz, including 2 million children. So no. I trust only one thing in this world and that is my own brave military to keep me safe. Everything else is just made up fairy tales.

        November 19, 2013 at 3:32 am |
  8. greenislanddreams

    How long before this Prophet and Truth Teller is murdered by his own people?

    November 18, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply
    • Paul II

      I'm starting to think the Jewish People are prophetic in and of themselves. They are 2% of the population but have received 25% of all Nobel Prizes. What have you done "greenie"?

      November 18, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  9. Berel Dov Lerner

    As an Israeli, I feel much safer knowing I live in a country which is "indestructible." Or is it that I feel much more threatened, knowing that the Mossad was run by someone who thinks his country is indestructible....

    November 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm | Reply
    • Richard

      Neither. You should do more as an Israeli on the ground to reach out to your beleaguered neighbors. Your world will not be changed by spies and bombs and WHAT NOT. It will be changed by pens and kind words and kind actions and WHAT ELSE. Change the minds and hearts of ISRAELI and PALESTINIAN mothers and fathers who ARE NOT that different in their pain and longing.That is the courage really required of you.

      November 19, 2013 at 5:23 am | Reply
  10. apple999

    Sooner or later Israel will become infested with high nuclear radiation.
    Who would like to live there.
    Or America has created colony (for riddance) for these people knowingly so that they all get nuked,

    November 19, 2013 at 1:12 am | Reply
  11. Silver

    I am aghast that someone who assumes his country to be indestructible could have once been the head of its security services. What he is really saying is that Israel should conduct policies that would tolerate mistakes whereby it could suffer casualties as Britain did in WWII, because it assumes it would eventually still survive. I will leave you to judge the wisdom of such a leader.

    November 19, 2013 at 1:16 am | Reply
  12. Aaron

    Israel afraid for its existence???
    It is an irony because in another religion, Islam, the Quran actually has a verse in which God supposedly mocks Jews by saying that you claim to be the chosen and beloved people of God but you so fear your survival so much. Is it because you don't even believe your own propaganda that as the chosen people, God will always ensure your survival?.

    November 19, 2013 at 2:04 am | Reply
    • Paul II

      That is not what "chosen" means.

      November 19, 2013 at 10:49 am | Reply
  13. Aaron

    Everyone felt sorry about the Jews and their ugly fate in Nazi gas chambers. Yet now we see Jews bullying and mistreating the Palestinians and leading an economic blockade and sanctions against Gaza and Iran which is causing unemployment and poverty to million of innocent men, women and children. Why are Jews so cruel and heartless?

    November 19, 2013 at 2:10 am | Reply
    • Richard

      Not only that, they are unforgiving. I am reminded of Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice". Netanyahu is losing a golden opportunity for international public relations by openly bad-mouthing the leader of Iran who is extending an olive branch in a genuine gesture of peace.

      November 19, 2013 at 5:12 am | Reply
    • Paul II

      If the jews were truly heartless they would have wiped out the "palestinians" a long time ago. Instead the granddaughter of the leader of Hamas (that's the organization that has sworn to murder all Jews worldwide) is being treated in an Israeli hospital.

      November 19, 2013 at 10:52 am | Reply
  14. Norwel

    There's a small typo in the article.

    "the potential deal is being negotiated by Israel and ..."

    should of course read

    "the potential deal is being negotiated by IRAN and ..."

    November 19, 2013 at 2:24 am | Reply
  15. The Question

    It's kind of funny that all those who decry Israel don't ask themselves why Iran has invested to much in it's long range missile program - a program that includes missiles that far out reach Israel (or any of Irans other Arabic adversaries) and can be aimed at say ... Europe or the US .

    Why would such a regime also look to build nuclear weapons ?
    (you only need heavy water , or high caliber uranium for that)

    I know it hurts the brain to think ... , but if you are willing to stand the pain , just google the words Iran missiles europe .
    And have a nice day thinking that the Iranians are the good guys .

    November 19, 2013 at 2:34 am | Reply
    • Aaron

      Why do you presume Iran's missiles are not for defensive purposes??? North Korea builds nukes and missiles with a range of 6,000 km and you are not bothered. India has started manufacturing ICBM missiles with a range of 8,000 km and India has a stockpile of 600 nuclear warheads but you are not bothered. Can you tell me which country North Korea and India plan to attack with their long range missiles and nukes?

      November 19, 2013 at 3:29 am | Reply
      • The Question


        > Why do you presume Iran's missiles are not for defensive purposes ???

        Well , let's see :

        – Because I can count to 2 ... , and 1 (missles) + 1 (nukes) does not = peace in my book .

        – Why do I not think that Iran has a peaceful intent ?
        Because it has carried out clandestine acts of terrorism and violence outside of its soil both for political and religious reasons .

        – Because it keeps a private army (Hesbollah) inside a sovereign Arab nation (Lebanon) .

        – Because it has tried to meddle in the affairs of many of it's oil rich neighbours .

        – Because it's a nation that has a religious leadership that seeks to dominate outside it's borders (often via force) , either for strategic reasons or religious doctrine .

        – Because (with it's current supreme leadership) it not a nation that I would trust to keep nukes (or dirty nukes) out of the hands of terrorists .

        – Because (with the same religious leadership) they have stalled nuclear disarmament talks for about 8 years now , and I'm not impressed by this sudden "wind of change" .

        – Because they need time to finish their nukes , and at least 2-5 years to upgrade their long range missile abilities to target the whole of western Europe (UK included) and about half of the Eastern US .
        In short , they need time , so they are yelling "PAUSE" .

        > North Korea builds nukes and missiles with a range of 6,000 km and you are not bothered.

        True , but North Korea has not showed signs of either military , ideological or religious expansionism .
        Iran OTOTH has shown all 3 plenty of times .
        And that ... has me worried .

        November 19, 2013 at 4:03 am |
  16. ashok

    Words of wisdom from a man who has spent his working life keeping Israel safe. Israel's security is no longer in doubt. The effort now should be to make the region less volatile, the early creation of a Palestinian state, the return of Iran to the global order. Hard to see how that would hurt Israelis.

    November 19, 2013 at 3:23 am | Reply
    • Richard

      It wouldn't hurt Israel unless that is precisely what keeps Israel indestructible i.e. keep the neighbors weak with hunger and suffering and with no land that they forever remain beggers.

      November 19, 2013 at 5:09 am | Reply
  17. Doc Johnnie

    Well, of course Israel is indestructible – with the full, unquestioning support of the US, what else would we expect?

    November 19, 2013 at 3:28 am | Reply
  18. Yitzchak Hal

    Halevi is another sel-hating jewish leftist antisemite.
    There is no and never has been fair play in the middle East. Only winner takes all. Halevi is therefore unconfortable with israel being a winner. Fair Play with the Palestinians in the negotiation would meen destruction for the Jewish State.
    the Jews have been underdogs for 2'000 years. Now a new era has began. Halevi can stay in London and talk to deaf ears.

    November 19, 2013 at 6:18 am | Reply
  19. Yitzchak Hal

    Jews should not apologize for winning the war. Even after 2,000 of persecution in exile, Jews should not be ashamed of lifting their heads high and calling the shots in the middle east.
    Winner takes all and no fair play. The middle east has never been an arena for fair play. Fair play with the palestinians means destruction for the Jewish state that is a minority in the middles east.

    November 19, 2013 at 6:35 am | Reply
    • Yitzchak Hal

      Israel will grow from strength to strength while every one else collapses. A new world order was created in 1948 with the establishment of the state of Israel after 2,000 years of exile.
      If anybody in the world feals unconfortable with that then they can "Lump it"! This is gods work. Gods promise to the forefathers and the prophets.!

      November 19, 2013 at 6:39 am | Reply
  20. partho

    Israel will always face threat from the world muslim someone who comes from the country with the second largest muslim population and having lived for decades in Islamic countries of the gulf and in countires lin Africa with significiant muslim populations universally,except in situations that forced them to be politicaly correct muslims from all strata and origins expressed extreme anti Israeli emotions.

    November 19, 2013 at 7:36 am | Reply
  21. nosi

    Bravo Mr Halevy. It's about time peace reigns in both the Lands of Palestine & Israel. We can't hang on the past forever. At one stage we'll inevitably converge not because others are the so called "God chosen" as if others are not, but because we are humans living in this planet.
    Mr. Halevy is a progressive man! Viva

    November 19, 2013 at 8:10 am | Reply
  22. Joey

    These comments by Mr Halevy are totally ridiculous. How can Israel be expected to move on from the Holocaust if its threatened constantly from Iranian Holocaust-level nuclear attacks? I don't understand how peace between two parties can happen if one of those parties repeatedly say things like "we should wipe Israel off the map", while trying to gain the weapons to accomplish that. What has Iran done in terms of trying to achieve peace, that we should be so openhanded with letting them come to the table? The facts are, Israel has never instigated conflict with Iran, yet Iran continues to send threats Israel's way. Once Iran shows its ready to attempt to be an actual, non nuclear-holocaust threatening country, then we should take them seriously in terms of peace. To be frank, it hasnt done that yet.

    November 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  23. john

    These endless conflicts may be delusions that give purpose for one's work to seize land and resources . But the time of delusions is coming to an end.

    November 20, 2013 at 5:35 am | Reply
  24. hdq

    "Halevy said that a two-state solution was 'least probable but most desirable', while a single state of Palestinians living in an Israel that encompasses Gaza and the West Bank, was 'least desirable but the most probable.' ”
    Neither of the "state sollutions" are either "probable" or "desirablle" by either of the side, but are political postures grown out of poltical spin.
    The real desire of those who want a "State of Israel" is a Jewish State on all of Palestine, and the real desire of the Arabs in the areas occupied by Israel in 1967 is complete removal of all Israeli presence from these areas. While the real desire of the Arabs expelled from Palestine in 1948 is to be able to return to the places where they had been expelled from and to live there as they lived before 1948.

    Both the expulsion of the Arabs in 1948 and occupation of the Arab lends in 1967 are illigal acts under the post 1945 International Law, so the only legal way for those who want to have a Jewish State on all of Palestine is to buy all that land fron its non-Jewish inhabitants. Buying land is legal, take it by force or deception is not.

    But, these simple facts have been lost sight of among all the political arguments, and as long as these political arguments continue the "most probaoble" outcome is continuation of the conllict and of negotiations about negotiations.

    December 2, 2013 at 5:31 am | Reply
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