Ehud Yaari

  • Country: Israel
  • Title: Journalist, Commentator
  • Education: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University
  • Books: Intifada (1990), Israel's Lebanon War (1984), The Year of the Dove (1979)
  • Awards: Israeli Press Editors-in-Chief prize, Sokolov Prize, Israel Broadcasting Award

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GIDEON ROSE: Thank you.

Well, welcome, everybody. This is Gideon Rose, the managing editor of Foreign Affairs. We are delighted to have with us today Ehud Yaari, who has a very interesting and provocative piece in the new issue of Foreign Affairs called "Armistice Now: An Interim Agreement for Israel and Palestine," laying out a new option for the peace process. And as a promotional device for the issue and Ehud's article, we arranged to have a major flap in U.S.-Israel relations just so we could sort of kick off the discussions in a -- in a more aggressive and provocative way. We are lucky to have -- that's obviously a joke.

We have Ehud with us today to discuss not only his piece, but also the current mini-crisis in U.S.-Israel relations, which he has been following, not just from the Israeli side but also from the American side, where he is the Lafer International Fellow at the Washington Institute. He's one of Israel's most prominent journalists. His résumé extends out the door. I know all of you are familiar with it, so without further ado, let's get right to Ehud.

Ehud, why don't you start for a second and tell us what you think the essence of this immediate dispute is between the U.S. and Israel. Did Netanyahu know what was going to happen when Biden came? And was the dispute orchestrated on the --

EHUD YAARI: Yes, thank you, Gideon.

The prime minister and his defense minister are landing -- (inaudible) -- and I'm speaking to you from Jerusalem or near Jerusalem.

I can say that, number one, they were totally amazed by the reaction of Vice President Biden, the White House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the announcement of those 1,600 additional units in one of the bigger neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Number two, I think that the sense amongst the Israeli delegation coming back from D.C. right now is that they fell into a trap. The general sense in Israel right now is that the prime minister was sorely humiliated by President Obama. There is quite a degree of amazement the way he was treated. I think it's fair to say that neither the prime minister nor his defense minister, Ehud Barak, were aware of the kind of reception that they were greeted with at the White House.

The reason is that they did not expect the Obama administration to insist on a freeze of all activities in East Jerusalem, including those Jewish neighborhoods built decades ago, which, as it was understood with both Presidents Clinton and Bush, would remain part of Israel in any future peace settlement.

ROSE: So is this the -- so is the essence of the problem right here -- because I think both sides feel blindsided a bit -- is the essence of the problem what Netanyahu said at AIPAC, which was that, for the Israelis, Jerusalem is not a settlement, whereas for the Americans, East Jerusalem is still considered part of the disputed territories? Is that really what's at heart here?

YAARI: Yes. I think that every Israeli prime minister -- let's assume the leader of the opposition Kadima Party, Tzipi Livni, was prime minister -- prime minister now, she would say exactly the same, and she would not refute what I am saying now. It's impossible for any Israeli prime minister to say that he is going to forego Jerusalem before a final status negotiations with the Palestinians for end of conflict, end of claims.

I think that what is missing here right now, and was not made clear enough by the U.S. administration, is the distinction between Jewish settlement or purchase of land or houses within the densely populated parts of East Jerusalem and further building in those Jewish neighborhoods which were build across the '67 line but which exist there for decades, as I say. And it was always understood between Israel and the United States, and I venture to say also between Israel and Mr. Abbas, that they were going to stay part of Israel in any future peace deal.

So the distinction here is between Israeli Jewish encroachment into the Arab parts of East Jerusalem, and the other part is the already built-up Jewish areas across the '67 line in the capital.

ROSE: Do you think that behind this current flap and the reason the flap could have expanded so much is a fundamental difference of opinion between Washington and Jerusalem about what the possibilities are for some kind of peace deal -- in other words, that some Americans -- I'm not necessarily saying the administration, but some American commentators have viewed the attitudes you're talking about with regard to East Jerusalem as part of a fundamental Israeli unwillingness to make significant compromises or concessions on the peace process to get it going and an almost sort of toleration of the status quo? And so some of the anger or some of the disappointment might be a sense that, gee, we don't really have a partner. You know, what the Israelis used to say about the Palestinians some Americans now feel about the Israelis, that we don't actually have a partner for peace, whereas the Israelis seem to feel that's sort of ridiculous and absurd and the problem is all on the Palestinian side. What would your take on that be?

YAARI: Yeah, I would say that many Israelis are wondering, Why didn't the American administration (order to ?) -- request from President Abbas a very simple answer on the last offer made to him by previous Prime Minister Olmert? Olmert made a very detailed proposal to the Palestinians when he was prime minister, and it remains without response to this moment. The Olmert proposal included, amongst other items, retaining only 5.9 percent of the West Bank, including the neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and swapping territory from within Israel. Instead, it had an arrangement for running the holy (basin ?) in Jerusalem. It gave up the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the Palestinian state, et cetera.

The United States administration didn't ask Mr. Abbas for his answer. That could have been a very appropriate starting point for negotiations because then they could come back to Mr. Netanyahu and say, "Okay, we have the Palestinian answer; let's resume negotiations from there."

ROSE: So are we really at some kind of fundamental breaking point between the United States and Israel on this? How important do you think this whole flap has been?

YAARI: I think it's the worst moment in Israeli-U.S. relations in over 30 years, maybe more.

ROSE: More so than James Baker?

YAARI: Oh, yes. I think -- I'm going back to Eisenhower and Ben Gurion in '56.

ROSE: Wow.

YAARI: But I hope it's only a moment. I hope it's only a moment and not an extended period.

But I think that what is -- should be of concern to anybody interested in advancing the peace process is the fact that, at this moment, in spite of all the rhetorics to the contrary, we have a lot of daylight, a lot of space between Israel and the United States, and a very strong sense in Israel -- including amongst many people who are not fans of the present government and Mr. Netanyahu, people who were extremely enthusiastic about the election of President Obama -- people feel that this administration is seeking to maintain distance from Israel, to maintain some sort of ongoing strain and tension, if not a continuous crisis, in order to serve -- to serve probably broader objectives in the Middle East. It's very difficult for any Israeli prime minister to sit to the table, to the negotiating table with the Palestinians, when he is not fully coordinated with the U.S. president.

ROSE: Do the Israelis view this as an attempt by the Obama administration to force Netanyahu to do something that will disrupt his coalition and make the government fall?

YAARI: Absolutely so. I think that the sense in Israel right now -- and as I said, the prime minister is just about to land -- is that Mr. Netanyahu and Barak -- and it's very important that he took with him the defense minister because he wanted to reassure President Obama that he is indeed talking about a two-state solution; that he is bringing his closest ally, the defense minister who was the man who made the proposals at Camp David 2000. But instead, he was presented by what is perceived at the moment, at least now, as a bend or break, with demands that are very difficult for him to accept.

Now, if the American moves are generated by the wish to see a different government in Israel, then I have to say that, number one, I don't think that the Netanyahu coalition is about to disintegrate; and number two, I do not think that Kadima Party, Mrs. Livni, who seems to be viewed more favorably in Washington, that is going to join -- to join the coalition anytime
soon. And if it did -- coalition (break down ?) -- and we go to early elections, I can assure you -- and I'll take the responsibility for that -- that the right wing will win (them ?).

ROSE: Interesting. I hope we haven't just lost you there, because that would be a fascinating point to develop.

Let's turn to your piece for a second. How does all this play into the peace process and your own proposal for an interim agreement?

YAARI: Well, what I am saying and what motivated the piece in Foreign Affairs -- and I am very grateful for Foreign Affairs for publishing it -- was this: the understanding that the final status will keep proving elusive. I do not think that we are at the point where Israelis and Palestinians can agree on the two major issues, which is Jerusalem and the refugees. They may be a bit closer on borders, but this is not the main issue right now.

And now the question is whether you keep pursuing an elusive goal and take the risk of running again into a deadlock and possibly a third intifada, a flare up, or during the negotiations for final status, while not dropping the ball and persisting in the effort to get a final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, we try to get a sort of an interim package, which is inclusive, which is comprehensive, but do not aspire to resolve at once all outstanding issues.

So, for example, I would say we can have a package on what I suggest to call "armistice lines," referring to the '49 armistice agreement between Israel and the Arab states, which will have Israel evacuating between 40,000 and 50,000 settlers from the central regions of the West Bank. We can have an interim arrangement for the refugees, especially those who are -- who reside in what is to be the Palestinian state. We can have an interim arrangement of a Jerusalem, such as participation of the government of the newly established Palestinian state in the management of the Arab neighborhood and some international or some joint administration of the holy places in the city, et cetera, et cetera. I'm not going into all the points.

I think this is doable. I think this is a tangible objective which does not require the Palestinians now to drop their claims for, for example, the right of return of the refugees; does not require the Palestinians now to recognize the state of Israel or even make a formal peace with it; and does allow Israel the time to -- or the opportunity to get a Palestinian state going before the Palestinians withdraw completely from the concept of the two-state solution.

There is just one more short paragraph. My sense is -- and I've been spending all my life in the no-man's-land between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- is that, give it two, three more years, the Palestinians will run away from the notion of a '67 border statehood. They are running away already, and I think it's in Israel's interest to arrest their withdrawal from this objective.

ROSE: That's absolutely fascinating. There are a lot of things I could pick up on on that, but I'd love to get into our discussion with our audience now to let them have a chance, since we only have you for another half an hour. So with that, let me turn it over to Q&A from our audience, and we're going to give you instructions for how to do that right now.

OPERATOR: At this time, we will open the floor for questions. If you would like to ask a question, please press the "*" key followed by the "1" key on your touch-tone phone now. Questions will be taken in the order in which they're received. If at any time you would like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, press *2. Again, that is *1 to ask a question.

Our first question comes from Charles Wolfson with CBS News.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Ehud. And thanks for doing this.


QUESTIONER: Is George Mitchell's usefulness finished? Or is there a way to overcome this whatever you want to call it -- bump in the road, bad patch, blah, blah, blah?

YAARI: Well, Charlie, I think that Mr. Netanyahu is going to make a huge effort to draft a document which is acceptable to the American administration. It will not be exactly what he was asked to do at the White House. He's convening, by the way, his inner Cabinet, the seven -- him and six other ministers, less than three hours from now in order to try and do that.

I do believe that once they manage to do that -- and I hope they will -- Mr. Mitchell will be able to get the consent of President Abbas to start proximity talks. And there you have Senator Mitchell as an indispensable player shuttling between the parties until -- at least until the moment that they can go back into direct negotiations.

QUESTIONER: OK, thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Chandrakant Pancholi with Overseas India Weekly.

QUESTIONER: Hello. I just wanted to know how much leeway we have -- the United States have -- on Israel and Palestinian Authority because -- and secondly, with the Palestinian Authority, how much they trust us. If nothing happens, then are we going to have a permanent state of war there between Israel and Palestinians? Or do we have some settlement proposals which most parties -- does U.S. have settlement that can be settled, or are they really, really far different than what both parties want?

YAARI: Yes. Thank you. I'll pick it from the last question you have raised, sir.

I believe that the United States' participation in the peace process is indispensable. I cannot visualize a situation in which the Israelis and the Palestinians are able now to pull again an Oslo deal behind the backs or without the full participation and knowledge of the Americans.

So both for the Israelis and the Palestinians, a U.S. role is an absolute necessity.

Now, sure -- and I don't think I have to go into the details. The United States have a huge amount of leverage, both on Israel and in a different way over the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians believe that they have now the most -- the friendliest administration in America they ever had. They feel that President Obama has moved -- or was inching closer towards their position. And they are very happy -- I'm just saying that because I've been talking to them throughout the day -- they are very happy that President Obama is now raising demands which are included in the phase one of the old road map which correspond to Palestinian requests.

For example, as I understand it, the president was asking Mr. Netanyahu at that late-night meeting at the White House that the Israeli army will pull back to positions held on September 28, 2000, that's at the outbreak of the second intifada. That's something that previously was not raised as an immediate demand.

I should adhere, just as an example, to the complexity of the issues involved that, for the Israeli army to pull back to the 28th of September 2000 positions would mean that the army and the security service will no more be able to mount those small raids that they often mount into Palestinian territory areas in order to nab terrorists.

And that would entail a major risk for Israel because, please bear in mind that ever since defensive shield operation back in March 2002 and in the next six years, Israel was able to dismantle the production lines of suicide bombers and the underground network of terrorists in the West Bank.

Once the Israelis lose the capability of acting when necessary inside Palestinian territories, you're bound to have a resurgence of the suddenly Hamas and Islamic jihad terrorist activities.

I will conclude by saying that last year, 2009, was the most calm years in the history of the Israel-Palestinian conflicts. Still, we had 650 attacks, mostly, I concede, Molotov cocktails; that means at the pace of two a day. And this is without counting those numerous terrorist attacks which were planned and foiled by the Israeli security.

So there are major risks involved from the point of view of Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Barak if they are going to do that. And I expect that they will try to find some golden road towards that without taking too many risks concerning Israeli security.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Aviv Sahmi (ph) with Saudi TV.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Yaari. How are you?


QUESTIONER: I'm just wondering how your suggestion would bring us closer to a final-status negotiation, and what would you say to those who would see your proposal as a way just of pushing the final status further away by further changing facts on the ground, and what the Democrats here would say that the Republicans wanted to do against the health-care package of Obama, they would scrap it and start over and do it incrementally. And the Democrats would say, "Well, this is just a ploy." How will you address those?

YAARI: Yes, what I am basically saying is that we need to opt for statehood -- Palestinian statehood now, peace later, without ever discontinuing negotiations of a final status. I'm simply trying to be pragmatic and realistic. And when I'm observing the positions of both the Palestinians and the Israeli government, I just fail to see how we can get closer to a final-status deal of end of conflict, end of claims.

Now there the question is -- and if you cannot get this final- status deal soon enough, do you -- are you satisfied with that? If not, then I'm saying, during the negotiations for final status, as we try to move and resolve all outstanding issues with the backing of the international community (certainly the U.S., EU, and the moderate Arab states), we can move to a phase where we change the reality on the ground in a dramatic way -- in a dramatic way which, first, establishes a Palestinian state, B, removes a big number of settlers and settlements from within the West Bank.

We take steps towards a solution of the refugee problem without asking the refugees at this point to give up their claims for once we have the deal. And we already go into an interim arrangement of a Jerusalem that is -- my armistice idea would entail Palestinian participation in the management of the city of Jerusalem and now.

That means, of course, that they will be party to any decisions by, let's say, committees for planning and zoning. And those issues, which are addressed now, such as 20 units here or 20 units to be built or planned to be built in a different neighborhood in Jerusalem, this will become obsolete per se.

What I'm saying is that the big leap is impossible, unfortunately so. But a smaller leap is possible. And I believe that although it would be difficult for either party to adopt this idea publicly in an official manner, it's still possible that, during the negotiations, which I hope will be resumed now, this will be pursued and explored because I think some Americans may be surprised to see to what extent Palestinians are willing -- or some Palestinians -- are willing to consider and contemplate such a move.

QUESTIONER: Can I make a follow up?

ROSE: Yes, a quick one.

QUESTIONER: Okay. Are you defining any borders in this temporary situation?

YAARI: Yes. That's a very good one. I have different options for borders which intentionally I have chosen not to publish now. You know, I'm not a politician nor am I going to become a politician at any point.

But there are different versions of armistice boundaries that are possible. The best illustration I can give you is that the Israelis will withdraw during the interim period to roughly the line delineated by the current fence, or the "security wall" as it's called.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Jaap van Wesel with Jerusalem Report.



QUESTIONER: What I want to ask is my guess is that if the Palestinians would like to negotiate about an interim deal, they would need begging from the Arab League. Do you have any idea how the Arab League would react to such an idea, or is there anything on record that they have reacted?

YAARI: I can tell you, Mr. van Wesel, that the Foreign Affairs article was translated into Arabic in full and printed all over the region, sometimes with comments and reactions, and there are different articles in which people in the Arab world, including Palestinians, of course, have reacted. What is very interesting is that Hamas, for example, has widely publicized the translation of the piece, but they are refraining from any comment or reaction. And I suspect this is very telling.

But you are absolutely right. In order to get an interim as we move towards final status, one, we need the support mainly of Egypt and Jordan, certainly, Saudi Arabia in order to get the PA, President Abbas into a position where he can accept such an offer, which is, of course, to be accompanied with guarantees for the continuation of the final-status negotiations, et cetera.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Winuna Enevu (ph) with Columbia Jerusalem School. You may ask your question.

Okay. That line is disconnected. We have a question from Rick Richman with Jewish Current Issues.

QUESTIONER: Hi. What are your views on Prime Minister Netanyahu's position that any Palestinian state has to be demilitarized? And if you agree with that, how would that be enforced under your interim proposal?

YAARI: Well, let me remind you please that it was Chairman Arafat, no one else who used to say, and I'm speaking here as his first biographer, Arafat used to say that the Palestinian state will have policemen who would walk barefoot with sticks, and I'm quoting him now.

I think what Mr. Netanyahu is referring to as the Palestinian state will not have an army, will have forces, armed forces in
order to maintain law and order, but no army. There is armored carriers, yes; tanks, no. Combat aircraft, no; choppers, yes, et cetera. This is the distinction.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Again, if you'd like to ask a question, please press, *1 now.

We are presently holding for questions.

ROSE: Hi, Yaari, I'll take one here. This is Gideon. You said that you think the two-state solution, that within a few years the Palestinians will abandon the two-state solution and opt for other measures. And you spell out in your piece what you think that means and why it would be very bad for the Israelis if that happens. And so why, in effect, progress towards Palestinian disillusionment is something so important that it has to be headed off by your interim option.

Is there any sense in Israel that that is a failure of previous Israeli attempts at peacemaking? In other words, is there a sense on the Israeli side that there were lost opportunities and that they should have moved in retrospect earlier during, let's say, the '90s to try and pull things off, or is it just simply a sense that, gee, the Palestinians were never really interested?

YAARI: I think that the general perception in Israel is that the Palestinians will not give a yes as an answer to any proposal. That was the experience of Prime Minister Barak in Camp David in 2000. That was the experience of Prime Minister Olmert in a much improved offer that he made last year to President Abbas.

I believe that there was too much focus and concentration by all Israeli governments and all U.S. administrations on the attempt to achieve a final-status deal, which will resolve everything once and for all, and it's about time now that the Israelis prove to be a bit more creative and come to the Palestinians and say to the Palestinians, of course, with the necessary international backing that, "Here, that state you've been talking about for five decades is there for you. It's not within its final boundaries, but it's there, and we are going to be helpful and everybody else is going to be helpful."

I have my doubts as to the ability of the Palestinian Authority to resist such an offer if it's backed by the international donors. And I don't want to sound blunt, but the facts of life are that the Palestinian Authority is a wholly subsidized economy. It lives off the donor states.

Once they are saying, "Let's start moving, it's not yet the final station, but let's start moving," I believe, at the end of the day, you will find that the Palestinian Authority would be willing to move in this direction.

ROSE: Okay. Do we have any questions now?

OPERATOR: We do have questions. We have a question from Aviv Sami (ph) with Saudi TV.

QUESTIONER: Hi again. The Obama administration wants the proximity talks to handle Jerusalem refugees and borders. Do you see that the Netanyahu government would agree to those conditions?

And my other question is: Is Bibi Netanyahu agreeing with your idea of interim solution?

YAARI: Well, I'll pick it from the end of your question. Is the prime minister and the others in the Israeli government and opposition aware of that idea? The answer is yes.

I'm not campaigning for it, but they have been talking to me.

ROSE: And, of course, they read Foreign Affairs. (Laughs.)

YAARI: Now, I cannot tell you that the prime minister would go for it. But it would be my assessment that the prime minister prefers now interim agreements on both fronts; that is, I think the prime minister and certainly Defense Minister Barak prefer to go for an interim with the Palestinians and an interim with the Syrians.

With the Syrians, which we have not discussed -- and I did not discuss in the piece -- the results are the option of doing something which is very similar to what was concluded with late President Sadat and the late Prime Minister Rabin during his first period as prime minister back in '75, what is known as the Sinai II Deal, which gave back to the Egyptians half the Sinai and the reopening of the Suez Canal.

What Mr. Netanyahu has in mind, in my view -- I'm not authorized to speak on his behalf, but in my view -- is a move on both fronts, Israel and the Syria towards an interim as an opener.

QUESTIONER: And so what is he offering on the side of Syria? And do you think that the prime minister would agree on the three demands of the Obama administration -- the refugees, Jerusalem, and the proximity talks?

YAARI: Oh, yes. I forgot. I'm sorry.

Yes, I think the Israeli government will have no problem saying that they are willing to discuss the core issues of final-status deal. That's been the position all along; I don't think it's going to change.

As to Syria, it is my understanding -- as far as I know, it was never stated in public or officially by the prime minister or anybody else authorized to speak for him. What I understand is that they would like to see a deal with President Assad of Syria which will leave Israel, at least for a period, on top of the Golan but not in control of the whole of the Golan.

That's to put it briefly.

QUESTIONER: Well, you know, Netanyahu did not want to discuss neither Jerusalem or nor refugees in the proximity talks. Now, you're saying that he will?

YAARI: Oh, I think that Netanyahu is willing to discuss all core issues during the proximity talks. He is just saying that, in order to conclude issues, et cetera, you will need to move as fast as possible to direct negotiations.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Judy Miller with the Manhattan Institute.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Ehud. How are you?


QUESTIONER: I'm curious about -- I mean, obviously, your proposal is very interesting. Have you gotten any sense at all from the Americans and whether or not they think this is a good idea? And, two, isn't this crisis of confidence between Israel and the United States really just about the peace process? Or do you think it extends beyond that? And if so, what are the implications of that?

YAARI: Yeah. Thank you, Judy, for this question.

Was there interest from American officials in the piece that was published by Foreign Affairs? The answer is yes. I'm not at liberty to say who was interested in what, et cetera, of course.

The second part of your question is -- I was hoping I would not have to go into this. But since I have to --

QUESTIONER: (Laughs.) Yes.

YAARI: I think the basic issue is Iran. I think that we wouldn't have much of what we have seen over the past 48 hours or so unless there was a basic difference in assessment of where the Iranian nuclear program is, where they are heading, and how to deal with this.

There are different clocks ticking for a superpower like the United States and a tiny state like Israel. I'll give just one example.

For the U.S., the clock that is ticking away is the clock of how close the Iranians are getting to a breakout point. And now, I'm not saying now that necessarily once they are there, they will go for the breakout. I have my doubts.

But for the Israelis, the clock that is really ticking away is to what extent the Iranians are successful in their attempts to bury the different installations and the nuclear-program effort so as to make the likelihood of substance of an Israeli strike very slim.

And you have these different clocks ticking in Washington and Jerusalem, ticking to my ears, very loudly. And I think my impression is that, at this point, we do not have a good understanding -- tacit, quiet understanding -- between the two governments on how to deal with the Iranian challenge and what to do next.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Chandrakant Pancholi with Overseas India Weekly.

QUESTIONER: Well, hi. What happens if Israel and Netanyahu -- (inaudible) -- still goes and builds the apartments in East Jerusalem? Do you think or do you have any indication as to what type of reaction U.S. government will have, whether they will withhold some aid or military aid or economic aid?

YAARI: I have no idea. I think that what they are trying to do is to get to an understanding of Jerusalem different from the freeze imposed on settlement and extension of settlements in the West Bank, which is enforced. And as I have referred to before, a distinction, an understanding, maybe a tacit one, has to be reached between Israel and the United States, probably with the Palestinians being fully informed about it.

The difference between those big neighborhoods -- Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, which are there for decades, and construction there is going all the time, and something which is very different, and that is Israelis, Jews, purchasing property, real estate within the Arab neighborhoods of densely populated East Jerusalem, settling there, et cetera.

These two issues should be kept separate. And then I think we may reach -- it would be possible to reach an understanding between the U.S. and Israel.

QUESTIONER: And an Iranian question. Did you see any readiness of United States to strike if Iran still keeps going on and builds an atom bomb?

YAARI: Well, unfortunately, I'm not privy to the thinking of the top echelons of the U.S. administration. But I do not see any public indication that the U.S. is heading in this direction.

ROSE: We're coming up on the time, the witching hour here. So we're going to have to let you go in a couple of minutes. I just wanted to step in and thank you for what you've been saying and your time with us. Hopefully, we'll have you back in the magazine and on future calls.

I want to give you the last word. Any final comments you want to make. And I also want to know if there's been any discussion in Israel of General Petraeus' comments and whether that's caused any soul-searching over there.

YAARI: Well, people were a bit surprised by the comments he made in Congress. But aside from that, there are very warm contacts between General Petraeus and CENTCOM and the Israeli military. So the sense here is that, probably, people read too much into what he said in Congress.

ROSE: And any final last thoughts you might have?

YAARI: Well, let's go for interim. Otherwise, we are stuck.

ROSE: (Laughs.) With that, we'll leave it. Thank you very much, Ehud. Thank you for all of you listening, and hope to have you back soon for another current foreign affairs conference call.

YAARI: Thank you.









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