The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not the source of the Middle
East’s problems, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Saban Forum of the
Brookings Institution via video link on Sunday.
Offering a laundry list
of problems facing the region, Netanyahu suggested putting the conflict in
perspective – but said that peace was vital nevertheless, primarily for Israelis
and Palestinians themselves, referring to a final-status agreement as a
“strategic goal” of his office.
The prime minister spoke after US
President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry gave remarks to the
forum on Saturday, both discussing the Middle East peace process and Iran’s
Netanyahu said the “minimal requirement for peace”
with the Palestinians was their recognition of the state as home to the Jewish
people with equal right to self-determination as themselves.
one thing: the persistent refusal to accept the Jewish state, in any border,”
Netanyahu said. “The question shouldn’t be, why does Israel make this demand.
The question is, why do the Palestinians consistently refuse to accept it?” “I’m
ready for a historic compromise that ends the conflict between us once and for
all,” he added, calling peace a “two-way street.”
Netanyahu thanked Obama
for what he called an “indispensable alliance” that has experienced
unprecedented defense, security and intelligence cooperation between the two
governments under their leadership.
As expected, the prime minister
discussed his dissatisfaction with a deal cut in Geneva between world powers and
Iran that effectively halts progress on its expansive nuclear
Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms would “literally change the
course of history,” Netanyahu said, but he, like the US president, supports a
negotiated end to the crisis over confrontation.
“A diplomatic solution
is better than a military option, but a military option is required for
diplomacy to succeed, as are sanctions,” Netanyahu said.
For Israel to
accept a final deal, it has to ensure that Iran will never be a “threshold
nuclear weapons state,” maintaining the capability of building warheads without
necessarily ever obtaining them.
“I don’t think I can overstate, I don’t
think anyone can overstate the Iranian danger,” he said. “Any final deal must
end military nuclear capability.”
In his address, Netanyahu added an
element he has not articulated before – that the negotiators in Geneva demand a
change in Iran’s of “genocidal” policy toward Israel.
Not only must the
negotiators demand a “shift and elimination” of Iran’s capability to produce
nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said. It must also “demand a change to its genocidal
policy, that is the minimum thing the international community must do when
negotiating with Iran.”
Netanyahu also seemed to take issue with Obama’s
comments the day earlier that additional sanctions would not have forced Iran to
“cave,” saying, “We shouldn’t assume that better and tougher sanctions won’t
lead to a better deal. What seemed impossible today, could become possible
Although the Saban Forum first billed Netanyahu’s address as a
conversation with PBS’s Charlie Rose, the Prime Minister’s Office said that was
never cleared with Jerusalem.
Haim Saban is the largest benefactor to the
Brookings Institution and a major fund-raiser and donor to the Democratic Party,
just weeks ago pledging a gift during a fund-raiser with the president in
California. Saban himself moderated the question-andanswer session with Obama on
According to Israeli sources, Netanyahu’s office would not put
the prime minister in a position where he would undergo a critical interview
with an American journalist after an address from Kerry without questions and an
interview with Obama by a significant campaign contributor.