Meridor: Ahmadinejad didn't say, 'Wipe Israel off the map'
Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor tells Al-Jazeera Iran has called for the removal of Israel, says Ahmadinejad's remarks are not "just rhetoric" and should be taken more seriously • Israel Beitenu slams Meridor for "giving the Iranian leadership a free pass."
Israel Hayom Staff
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor. [Archive]
Photo credit: Lior Mizrahi
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never made a call "to wipe Israel off the map," as Israeli leaders have repeatedly claimed, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor told Al-Jazeera in an interview published Monday.
“They [Iranian leaders] all come basically ideologically, religiously with the statement that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive,” Meridor told Al-Jazeera. “They didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe it out,’ you are right, but, ‘It will not survive, it is a cancerous tumor, it should be removed.’ They repeatedly said, ‘Israel is not legitimate, it should not exist.’”
Meridor’s comments are significant as they come from a high-ranking Israeli cabinet minister at a time of heightened tensions over a possible Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, where every word and action by the parties is placed under a magnifying glass.
In 2005, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying that Israel should be "wiped off the map," a statement that outraged the international community. However, it was later argued that a translation of his statements, which was published by major media outlets around the world, was incorrect, and that Ahmadinejad actually repeated remarks made by former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution: "The imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time."
The "wiped off the map" statement has been recited repeatedly by Israeli leaders to justify claims that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel.
Meridor’s comments quickly came under attack on Tuesday, as Israel Beitenu wrote on its official English Twitter account, "Why is Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor giving the Iranian leadership a free pass?"
Meridor agreed in the Al-Jazeera interview that Ahmadinejad did not say that Israel should be "wiped off the map," but stressed that "Iran is the only country on earth that says openly and repeatedly, Israel should not exist. It's not a very sympathetic way to look upon us. They say it again and again ... Israel needs to be removed. Israel should not exist. It is not legitimate. Israel is on the verge of collapse. When you hear this from these people, you need to take this seriously."
Meridor added that to call Ahmadinejad's statements "just rhetoric" is wrong. "If Iran says this, and continues to pile up uranium that they enrich, and build missiles in big numbers, and have a nuclear military plan -- if you put all this together, you can't say, they don't really mean it."
"They say peace with Israel is not legitimate. They attack those who make peace with us, like Jordan and Egypt. And they are very active in trying to help and arm those who try to fight us, like Hezbollah and others," Meridor said.
In response to a question about Iran's nuclear intentions, Meridor said, "Iran is going after nuclear weapons, but have not made the decision yet to move to the last step. But the general understanding between us and America and Europe is that there is no doubt whatsoever that Iran has made a decision to go there. They continue to build missiles. They haven't made the final decision, but they are preparing for it."
The intelligence minister defended Israel's strategy of not denying or confirming whether it has its own nuclear arsenal, and said, "No Arab country ever threatened to get nuclear weapons because they think we have it. But they all, or many of them, say we will not allow Iran to have it."
Asked about a war erupting in the Middle East over Iran's nuclear program, Meridor said Israel did not want this, but "we want Iran to step down from its nuclear ambitions. It's in the hands of Iran."