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Barak: U.S. and Israel have differences on Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel and the United States have differences of perspective and judgment on Iran and the Middle East, but the overall relationship is sound, Ehud Barak said.

The Israeli defense minister, speaking last Friday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy after a series of meetings with top U.S. officials, said that the United States necessarily viewed the Iran threat differently from Israel.

"From America, when you look at a nuclear Iran, you already have, just besides allies like France and UK, you have a nuclear Russia, nuclear China, nuclear India, nuclear Pakistan, North Korea is going toward turning nuclear," Barak said. "So probably from this corner of the world, it doesn’t change the scene dramatically.

"From a closer distance, in Israel it looks like a tipping point of the whole regional order with a quite assured, quite certain consequences to the wider world, global world order."

Israeli officials say 2010 may be the last opportunity to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and want to press forward on "crippling" sanctions that would target Iran’s energy sector. The Obama administration still favors multilateral sanctions that have an international consensus and target Iranian individuals and entities.

Barak, who was in Washington to gauge the U.S. posture on Iran, said that despite such differences, solid U.S. support and mutual respect was the basis of the relationship.

"I think that beyond that there is, of course, a certain difference in perspective and difference in judgment, difference in the internal clocks and difference in capabilities," he said. "And I don’t think that there is a need to coordinate in this regard. That should be understood; it should be exchange of views — we do not need to coordinate every step."

On other matters, Barak said he expected Israeli-Palestinian talks to resume within weeks, at first according to a "proximity" formula in which the sides would talk through an interlocutor.

He also said that Israel’s border with Lebanon is quiet, but warned that should Hezbollah launch another war, Israel would not be able to confine its retaliation to the terrorist group and also would aim for Lebanese infrastructure. Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government.

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