New Israeli home front chief Dichter: Iran’s nukes threaten Israel’s existence

JERUSALEM (JTA) — “Israel’s existence is threatened” by Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Avi Dichter said upon taking over as Israel’s home front defense minister.

Dichter, officially taking the post from Matan Vilna’i, said on Sunday that for the first time Israel is facing an existential threat from Iran as well as strategic threats from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. But, he added, “the era of killing Israelis because they are Jews is over.”

Dichter resigned from the Knesset and the opposition Kadima Party last week to take the ministership. It is believed he may be the deciding vote in the Security Cabinet in favor of a strike on Iran. 

Also Sunday, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard’s air force, said he would “welcome” an Israeli strike against Iran because Iran then would have a reason to retaliate and “get rid of” the Jewish state “forever,” The Associated Press reported, citing IRNA, the official Iranian news agency.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Israel “the Zionist cancerous tumor in the heart of the Islamic world,” according to IRNA, the French news agency AFP reported. Khamenei was delivering a speech in honor of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Two days earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had used the same terminology, saying that “The Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumor.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the statement “offensive and inflammatory,” and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said they were “outrageous and hateful.”

“Israel’s right to exist must not be called into question,” Ashton said through a spokesman.

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