After making a strong case against Iran last week at the UN, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Greek Prime Minister
Antonis Samaras, whose country would like to give Iranian President Hassan
Rouhani a chance.
The meeting will take place a day after Netanyahu met
Czech President Milos Zeman.
Before that meeting, Zeman met President
Shimon Peres, who said “Iran will not be judged by words, but only by deeds. For
us, what will count is the real position of Iran in coming days.”
responded, “You know Hamlet – words, words, words… But facts are more
Samaras is heading a delegation of some eight Greek
ministers, who will hold discussions with their Israeli counterparts in the
first Israeli-Greece government-to-government meeting.
Such meetings are
ways for countries to fundamentally strengthen bilateral relations, and Israel
has them annually with a number of countries, including the Czech Republic,
Germany, Poland and Bulgaria.
Although there will surely be much
agreement on key bilateral issues, Netanyahu and Samaras are unlikely to see
eye-to-eye on Iran.
According to diplomatic officials, Greece is not
convinced by Netanyahu’s argument that Rouhani is essentially no different than
his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, just with a more pleasant façade. The
Greeks believe Rouhani should be given some time, and that perhaps the pressure
already placed on Iran has changed its leadership’s positions.
to these officials, the Greeks believe there is a “glimpse of hope with the new
leadership,” and that it should be given some time.
While some European
countries, such as France and Britain, continue to press for a tough line on
Iran, Greece is among some of the smaller European countries that would like to
see sanctions eased – partly because the sanctions are hurting their own
economies. According to diplomatic officials, it is not easy for a country in
Greece’s difficult economic straits to explain to its own people that sanctions
which hurt them are needed against a faraway state that is not directly
The Greeks, according to the officials, maintain the
Iranians will likely recognize the gestures from the West, and see there are
benefits to going forward in the direction the world wants to see them
Netanyahu’s meeting with Samaras comes a day after his meeting with
Zeman, whose position on Iran is closer to his own.
At a joint appearance
before their meeting, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel was not opposed to
negotiations with Iran, as long as they lead to “real results.” He also repeated
what he has been saying consistently since his appearance last week at the UN:
that if Iran was indeed interested in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, it
would not need to enrich uranium or build a nuclear reactor.
agreement, an agreement that produces real results which produce real
disarmament from nuclear weapons of Iran, requires that they completely give up
centrifuges and the plutonium route,” he said. “If they do that, I think we
could all be satisfied and we could all support this, such an achievement. If
they don’t, well, we’ve been down that road before and we don’t want to repeat
Netanyahu said he feels that when he says these words in front of
Zeman, “you understand deeply.”
Israel, he added, has “no better friends
in Europe than the Czech Republic, the Czech people.”
Zeman said he
understood that Israel’s fights cannot only be against physical deserts. “There
are deserts in the human mind, there are deserts represented by some neighbors,
and you mentioned one neighbor in your statement,” he said.
Zeman said he
was visiting as a politician who “always supported Israel, whether it was
popular or not.” Earlier in the day, at a reception hosted by Peres, Zeman said
the Czech Republic and Israel were on the same wavelength with regard to
Israel’s national security and the global fight against terrorism.
who was last in Israel 12 years ago, noted that there have been many changes in
the interim. What has not changed has been his attitude to Israel. “I have
always been a friend and I shall be a friend,” he said.
Greer Fay Cashman
contributed to this report.
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