TORONTO — A nuclear-armed Iran would be a boon to terrorists, a threat to the Middle East and a spur to encourage other countries in the region to develop atomic arsenals, Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Resources Uzi Landau warned on Sunday.
“Iran could provide terrorists with a nuclear umbrella,” said Landau, speaking at Shaarei Shomayim Congregation.
Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon would also bolster its influence in the region and prompt nations such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia to emulate it, he added.
“Iran is not only Israel’s problem, but the problem of the free world and the United States,” said Landau, whose appearance was sponsored by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Israel’s consulate general in Toronto.
Landau, a former minister of public security, charged that Iran is using international talks on its budding nuclear program to buy time.
Current sanctions are affecting Iran’s economy, he allowed, but they will not deter Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
If necessary, “other means” will be used to stop Iran, he said in an allusion to military force.
Calling the Iranian government a “rogue regime” governed by an extreme form of Islamism, Landau accused Iran of working to create a world “without Israel and democracy.”
Citing developments in Egypt and Tunisia, he described Islamists as the main beneficiaries of the Arab Spring.
Warning that “this huge earthquake” has yet to run its course, Landau said the Arab Spring may eventually affect American allies such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Striking yet another sombre note, Landau said the Arab world has become more unstable and less friendly to the West, and is a region that mocks human rights and abuses women.
He pointed to Israel as the West’s only democratic ally in the Middle East.
In comments on the peace process, Landau said the unresolved Palestinian issue is not the root cause of instability in the area.
He accused the Palestinian leadership of trying to avoid direct talks with Israel by taking their case for statehood to the United Nations.
Peace between Israel and the Palestinians will be difficult to attain because Israel is seen as an enemy in Palestinian school texts, he added.
“We wait for the day when the Palestinians will have a leader like [Anwar] Sadat who can deliver a peace agreement,” he said, referring to the late Egyptian leader who signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
Suggesting that a two-state solution may not defuse Israel’s confrontation with the Palestinians, Landau said the establishment of a Palestinian state might not be a viable way of resolving the problem. He didn’t elaborate.
He said Israel would have been at peace with all its Arab neighbours long ago had they been like Canada, but that in the absence of such neighbours, the War of Independence of the Jewish people in Israel goes on.
Landau estimated that the discovery of natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea will supply Israel’s needs for the next 50 years. These deposits are an important element of Israel’s energy independence and national security, he said.
He expressed hope that natural gas, rather than gasoline, can revolutionize transportation in Israel in the near future.
Israel also hopes to use its natural gas reserves to develop better relations with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority and thereby achieve regional stability, he said.
Landau was introduced by Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources and Conservative MP for Eglinton-Lawrence.
Oliver, who invited Landau to Canada and recently visited Israel, voiced optimism that Canada’s current $1.6-billion worth of trade with Israel can be increased through the energy sector.
Hailing Canada’s relationship with Israel and paraphrasing a recent comment by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, Oliver asserted, “Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada.”
Canada’s friendship with Israel reflects Canadian values, said Oliver, the only Jewish minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet.
He said Canada also supports Israel’s right to self-defence against terror, abhors the concept of moral relativism in which perpetrators are regarded as victims, and condemns the “oldest and most pernicious hatred, antisemitism.”