Time is running out for stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, said Israel’s consul general in New York.
Speaking at an Israel Bonds event in Short Hills, Asaf Shariv likened the situation to the last moments of a tense baseball game.
“I still think we are in the bottom of the ninth inning with Iran. We don’t have a lot of time,” he said. But, he noted, “we still have time to stop them with sanctions.”
Shariv spoke at a dinner reception at the home of Batsheva and Murray Halpern. His audience in their crowded living room included members of the Signature Society, those who have purchased $250,000 and more in Israel Bonds.
He called for “sanctions we haven’t seen before,” following the model of Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota. “Bombing Iran, by either Israel or the United States or both is a terrible, terrible option,” said Shariv. “It is probably the second worst option on the table. The worst option is to live with a nuclear Iran.”
Shariv urged nations to offer stark choices to countries and companies doing business with Tehran.
“So, you can decide that every airplane that lands in Iran won’t land in Europe or the United States,” he offered. “You think Air France will continue to fly to Iran? You think the Iranians will be happy about it? The same goes for ships. It wouldn’t cost a dime to the American taxpayer.”
He said militant anti-government demonstrations in Tehran suggest a regime that is “not as strong as it was.”
“I’m not saying the revolution is on its way — and both sides are not a member of the Zionist organization,” he quipped. “But still, this is a time we can shake them. If there will be pressure, especially on the elite, this is something we can change now.”
‘A brave step’
Shariv also defended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 10-month freeze on expanding West Bank settlements.
Shariv called it “a very brave step” by “the most right-wing government in the history of Israel” to prod the Palestinian Authority toward peace negotiations. He said the freeze was also intended to ensure that the United States and other countries would reject the United Nations’ Goldstone Report on the Gaza War, which Israel regards as one-sided in its rebuke of the Israel Defense Forces.
“We had to pay a price,” Shariv explained. “This was in the back of the head of Netanyahu.”
Among those attending the talk were Joshua Matza, the CEO of Israel Bonds, and Alan Pines of Livingston, the outgoing general chair of the Metro New Jersey Bonds campaign. He was to be succeeded that evening by Andrew Hutter of Livingston.
“We need to get the next generation involved,” Hutter told NJ Jewish News. “Unfortunately we live in a jaded community here. There is not as much of a commitment to Israel as there has been in the past, so we need to rally the teenagers and the people in their 20s who are getting into the working world now. We need to start getting them involved.”
Peter Waldor of Short Hills, who succeeds Hutter as campaign chair of the organization, attributed a younger generation’s declining interest in Israel to assimilation.
“One characteristic of being assimilated is not supporting Israel,” he said. “Being a Zionist is part of being Jewish, and if people are not so Jewish they are not so Zionistic anymore.”