Israel possesses the intelligence and capability to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, according to Efraim Halevy, who served as the head of Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, from 1998-2002.
"You must assume that we know more than probably many people think we know," said Halevy, who spoke Monday to about 100 people at the law offices of Ballard Spahr in Center City.
The former spy chief spoke as part of the Bob Guzzardi lecture series, sponsored by the Middle East Forum, an organization dedicated to helping the United States define its interests in the region.
Referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Halevy promptly insisted that Americans "believe every word that [he] is saying. He really wants to destroy the State of Israel."
Even with such a harsh reality, Halevy remained optimistic that Iran will not simply "wipe Israel off the map," as Ahmadinejad has indeed threatened.
"Basic logic – he can never succeed. The existence of the State of Israel is not in question," he assured. "Israel has a variety of means to ensure its safety."
Although China and Russia – which have technology and arms relationships with Iran – have publicly opposed sanctions or military action against the country, Halevy believes that the two nations will eventually give in to American pressure.
"They will give the U.S. a hard time, but in the final analysis, I don't think they're going to confront the United States on this issue," he claimed.
The U.N. Security Council debated the Iran question just this week, and is expected to hold further talks in the near future.
'Interests other than killing'
A Mossad agent since 1961, Halevy came to Philadelphia to promote his book, Man in the Shadows: Inside the Middle East Crisis With a Man Who Led the Mossad. Born in London in 1934, Halevy moved to Israel when it gained independence in 1948.
In his official capacity, he has worked with five Israeli prime ministers, been involved in secret negotiations leading to an eventual peace accord with Jordan, and has supervised targeted assassinations of terrorists.
He now heads the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
On the issue of Palestinian terrorism and the newly elected Hamas-led Palestinian government, he actually lauded the group – recognized by Israel and the United States as a terror organization – for the recent cease-fire that has slowed violence in Israel for a year now.
"I believe that this is very important, because it shows they have interests other than killing Israelis," he stated.
But for Israel to negotiate with Hamas – which the nation, along with the United States and its European allies, has refused to do, citing Hamas' stated goal of destroying it – the Palestinians need to show that they will "behave in a responsible manner and prevent every possibility of a terrorist attack in Israel," he said.
The two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict does not seem so simple to Halevy. In fact, he questioned whether Palestinians at this point in their history could even effectively manage an independent state.
When asked after the event if newly elected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will – in the mold of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – withdraw from Israeli-held land in the West Bank, Halevy said that Olmert's policies are quite clear.
"He wants to determine the final borders of Israel unilaterally. If the Palestinians do not negotiate in good faith – and properly – determining the borders is [saying] that there will be areas Israel will be leaving which it now controls."