- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009


When Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor speaks, you have to listen closely to what he says - not because his message is cloaked in diplomatic double talk, but because he is sometimes hard to hear.

“I tend to talk with a soft voice,” he told reporters Wednesday over lunch at the National Press Club. “And I am not carrying stick.”

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Aside from the reference to President Theodore Roosevelt, whose advice was to speak softly but carry a big stick, Mr. Meridor does, indeed, carry weight when he speaks, even as he leaves some things unsaid.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of the Israel Project, which hosted the luncheon, noted that every Israeli ambassador speaks with an authoritative voice because Americans strongly support Israel.

“The Israeli ambassador can speak with a soft voice because it is the wishes of American voters that are the big stick,” she said.

When Mr. Meridor spoke of the threat Iran poses to the world and the need for other nations to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon, he avoided any comment that might have suggested that Israel is preparing to take action on its own.

The Iranian ruling theocracy is “trying to destroy what is left of the Jewish people,” Mr. Meridor said, referring to the Holocaust-denial statements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A nuclear-armed Iran “is not only an Israeli worry, this is a threat to the safety of the world,” he said.

Mr. Meridor expressed his alarm over a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that found Iran has increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to 1,010 kilograms, enough to make a nuclear bomb.

“This could put them within a year from the bomb,” he said. “This is a most significant threat to world peace.”

“It’s not too late to act. … The big question is, ‘What will the world do?’ ” he added, warning of the “nightmare of a nuclear Iran.”

The ambassador urged the United Nations to enforce the sanctions already imposed on Iran, adding that the country is vulnerable because its exports crude oil and imports refined gasoline.

Asked whether he was suggesting a blockade of Iranian shipping, Mr. Meridor replied he had said exactly what he intended to say and no more.

Israeli leaders are still trying to put together a coalition government since hawkish parties won parliamentary elections earlier this month, he noted.

“My guess is that a new government will want to work toward peace together with President Obama,” the ambassador said.

Asked whether time is running out for peace negotiations, Mr. Meridor said, “The window is not closing unless people are closing it.

“Even when you can’t be an optimist, you must be an optimist.”


Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy meets Friday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to discuss plans for the upcoming G-8 summit on the sun-drenched Italian island of La Maddalena in July.

Mr. Frattini, whose country holds the current chairmanship of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, met Thursday with Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Italy has 2,000 troops in Afghanistan and is planning to deploy another 800.

He also held talks with Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and with Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Frattini was to attend a dinner hosted by Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta for Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security secretary.

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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