Rebecca Anna Stoil , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israel's most challenging strategic problem is the Iranian nuclear program, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday, during which he also painted a pessimistic view of the situation along Israel's northern border.
"In the last year, two things have happened: Iran has advanced its military nuclear program, and Iran has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the international community," Netanyahu told the committee, adding that preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities was Israel's "central problem."
"Our highest interest is in preventing Iran's [nuclear] armament," he said.
To that end, Netanyahu added, "there is coordination with America regarding Iran - information and intensive assessment - and diplomatic coordination cannot be ruled out."
He did, however note that "it is not clear if cooperation by Russia and China against Iran will continue, but at this time, we do have an agreement."
"The use of the Internet and Twitter against the Iranian regime is a great thing," said Netanyahu. "In past years, Iran was portrayed as an unpleasant regime, but today there is deep hatred on the part of part of the Iranian nation against the regime. It is trickling out and constitutes a very important resource for the State of Israel."
Maj-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, the head of Military Intelligence's research division, told committee members that Iran has succeeded in enriching 1,800 kg. of uranium, which is "more or less enough for one-and-a-half nuclear bombs."
Iranian proxy Hizbullah, Netanyahu added, has also increased in its power and influence.
"If before, we related to Hizbullah as a militia on the side, today it has become the real Lebanese army," he said.
Hizbullah "has supplanted the Lebanese army as the significant force. It is arming itself and organizing itself like a regular army. The Lebanese government and Hizbullah are growing interconnected, and they will share joint responsibility for any attack on Israel," the prime minister warned.
Baidatz presented the committee with information that tens of thousands of Hizbullah fighters and rockets were deployed both north and south of the Litani River, and noted that the rockets currently deployed threatened the southern parts of Israel as well as the north.
In light of the information, Netanyahu went on to say that UN Resolution 1701, which was formulated following the Second Lebanon War in an attempt to prevent the re-armament of Hizbullah, had "totally collapsed."
"It did not withstand the test of reality," he said.
The prime minister drew parallels between the failed resolution and any possible final status agreement regarding the West Bank, asserting that "that is why any future arrangement in Judea and Samaria must be better and withstand the test of reality. Any future entrance of rockets and missiles to Judea and Samaria must be prevented as part of a future agreement. There must be direct oversight by Israel on future security arrangements, something that didn't happen in Gaza or Lebanon."
Netanyahu also addressed negotiations with Syria, reiterating that Israel was willing to engage in direct contact with Damascus, but that if a third-party moderator was necessary, that Israel would prefer France over Turkey, the previous choice for mediator.
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