Former Israel Security Agency head supports talks to reach nuclear deal with Iran
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporter November 8, 2013 6:46PM
Carmi Gillon, former Israeli security official, talks with the Sun-Times editorial board. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
Updated: December 10, 2013 6:10AM
As Secretary of State John Kerry mounted a major diplomatic push Friday to reach an interim nuclear deal with Iran, a former head of the Israel Security Agency voiced his support for such a plan.
“In my eyes, American policy is not coming out of weakness. It comes out of power,” said Carmi Gillon, former head of Shin Bet, who spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board Friday.
Kerry and other world diplomats are in Geneva to discuss an agreement offering to reduce sanctions in exchange for nuclear concessions from Iran.
“I think we should ... be very careful, be suspicious ... but you can’t have a one way diplomacy,” Gillon said.
Gillon was in Chicago to speak at a luncheon for J Street, a politically moderate pro-Israel group.
Gillon was featured in the documentary “The Gatekeepers,” as one of the six former Shin Bet leaders that shared and reflected on their decisions as leaders of Israel’s secret service.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, said Iran’s willingness to negotiate comes from “their own weakness, not out of strength” because economic sanctions in place have worked.
“They’re moving in the right direction. We’re getting ‘yes’ for an answer in terms of what we’ve been asking for from Iran. So, the question is what do we give them as a reward and a sort of tit for tat for the performance of doing the things that we want?”
But others who are staunch defenders of Israel aren’t so sure about a deal with Iran.
Roey Gilad, Israel’s consul general in Chicago, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Iran has “bluff[ed] the international community time after time” and anything its government agrees to “should be taken with a grain of salt.”
“We say fine, you want to engage in political talks, you show some seriousness,” Gilad said.
Jason Isaacson, the director of government and international affairs for the American Jewish Committee, agreed that Iran shouldn’t be trusted.
“We have zero confidence that Iranian leaders have abandoned their nuclear ambitions and are waiting for that evidence,” he said.
He said a diplomatic approach is “desirable,” but said lifting sanctions at this point would not be “productive or send the right signal of international resolve to the Iranians who are accomplished negotiators and have along track record of deception and obfuscation and clever tactical delays while they continue to make progress on their nuclear programs.”
The talks in Geneva primarily focus on the size and output of Iran’s enrichment program, which can create both reactor fuel and weapons-grade material suitable for a nuclear bomb. Iran insists it is pursuing only nuclear energy, medical treatments and research, but the U.S. and its allies fear that Iran could turn this material into the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
Meanwhile, Gillon said, “In my eyes, the big question is what kind of sanctions and how many of them you are going to release now.”
“I think it should be minimal,” he said, adding: “It should go side by side. If they stop the process then you take some of the sanctions [and] you move to another step [and] take the other sanctions.”
He said progress needs to be made and that means forward thinking.
“You can’t adapt a policy that doesn’t change when the realities change,” he said.
Contributing: Associated Press