Jerusalem – Today, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will hold a meeting about Iran in the Committee of the Intelligence Services. The topic: the effect of the North Korea nuclear test on Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear capability.

Officials in Jerusalem fear that nuclear technology has leaked from North Korea to Tehran.

Israeli officials said they were concerned that Tehran would be encouraged by Pyongyang’s successful defiance of international opposition to its nuclear program and would try to emulate the North Korea model. One high-ranking but unnamed political official told the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot: “The lesson that Tehran could learn is that the international community is incapable of stopping a country that is determined to obtain nuclear power even when sanctions have been imposed upon it and it has been isolated.” Israeli officials, such as the ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon, and the ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Gillerman, capitalized on the development to urge the international community to take more stringent steps against Iran and to deter it effectively from becoming a nuclear power.

Gillerman said that he believed the Iranians would be far more susceptible to economic sanctions than the North Korean regime was, noting in an interview to an Israeli news Internet Web site: “What else can sanctions achieve with a leader who starves his own citizenry? North Korea itself imposes sanctions on its population every day. In my opinion, the Iranians want far less to be isolated and, therefore, sanctions are more important over there.”

“This is a bad development in every way,” a high-ranking Israeli political official said Monday. “When the axis of evil gets stronger, Israel should be worried, particularly in light of the effect it could have on the Iranian nuclear question.”

High-ranking political officials in Jerusalem believe that the absence of a sharp and effective international response to North Korea’s test will encourage Iran to speed up its nuclear program.

Israeli political officials said Monday that it is likely that the North Korean test will encourage the world to act against Iran’s nuclear arms race.

“This is the only ‘ray of light’ in this matter,” a high-ranking official in Jerusalem said Monday, “but the problem is that even if the process of sanctions against Iran is speeded up, that will not stop the Iranians or change their behavior. It is certain that the test in North Korea will only encourage the Iranians and cause them to speed up their plans.”

“North Korea’s nuclear test shows that all estimates about a nuclear program’s timetable, like Iran’s, are imprecise,” said Professor Zeev Alfasi of Ben-Gurion University, an expert in nuclear engineering.

Alfasi, the director of the bioengineering department, said that while intelligence sources in the West believed that North Korea needed more time in order to obtain the amount of plutonium required to carry out a nuclear explosion, “they obtained the required amount, proving that they are capable of carrying out such an explosion. However, it is important to remember that the fact that a country has a nuclear bomb does not mean that it can be used to attack other countries. A great deal more work is necessary in order to install a nuclear warhead on a missile.”

Israeli intelligence officials believe that, over the past several years, Tehran has funneled a great deal of money into North Korea’s empty coffers in exchange for military technologies. Iran’s missile program has been speeded up significantly over the past several years. The Iranians established a network of straw companies in Europe that help to buy the technological components required for a nuclear program and long-range ballistic missiles. North Korea has also contributed its share.

The globalization of nuclear technology has immediate implications for Israel’s national security. In the game of poker that Tehran has been playing with the international community, the ace that the North Koreans Monday tossed onto the table changed the entire game. If a country with no influence on the world economy like North Korea can dare and succeed, how does one deal with Iran, whose every hiccup rocks the energy markets and the world economy?

A few hours after the nuclear test that North Korea conducted, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Gillerman drew a comparison in an interview to Ma’ariv-NRG between the North Koreans’ actions preceding its acquisition of nuclear weapons and those currently being pursued by Iran. Gillerman said he hoped that the West would draw the necessary conclusions and would stop Iran in time. The good news, said Gillerman, was that the regime in Tehran is more sensitive to economic sanctions than the North Korean regime.

Gillerman said that Iran has successfully evaded the obstacles on its path toward its acquisition of nuclear weapons with great skill and diplomatic acrobatics.

“Iran’s behavior is geared to buy time, but it is important to demonstrate to the world what danger inheres in an insane regime that is in the possession of nuclear weapons,” said Gillerman. He said that the North Koreans adopted the very same diplomatic tactics currently being used by Iran.

Regarding the actual development in North Korea, he said that he was very skeptical about the effectiveness of using sanctions against it. “The regime there doesn’t care if its subjects die,” he said.

Gillerman said that in that respect Iran differed from North Korea.

“Today, there is a consensus that Iran mustn’t acquire nuclear weapons, and I hope that what happened with North Korea will accelerate the processes vis-a-vis Iran-because time is running out.”

In that context, the appointment of South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon as the next United Nations secretary-general is exceedingly important. Gillerman had only words of praise for the South Korean diplomat. “I received a very positive impression of him,” said Gillerman. “With respect to Israel, he has a great deal of understanding and sympathy for the Israeli positions. I believe that he will be a very thoughtful, professional man, with a clear vision of the arena. People who are serious are good for us, by definition.”

Gillerman added that Ban Ki-Moon would make numerous changes in top-level U.N. personnel in his initial period in office that would be a “change for the better” for the U.N., said Gillerman.

©The Bulletin 2006


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.