Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged US President Barack Obama on Monday to keep sanctions in place against Iran and to even tighten them if Tehran continues its nuclear advances during a coming round of negotiations with the West.
"The bottom line is important, and that is that Iran does not get nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister stressed sanctions on Tehran must not be relieved
until it stops uranium enrichment, removes it from the country, closes
down the plant at Qom and abandons a plutonium channel to a nuclear
"For diplomacy to succeed the pressure and sanctions should be strengthened," he said.
Seeking to ease Israeli concerns about US diplomatic engagement with
Iran, Obama said Tehran must prove its sincerity with actions, not just
words, and vowed to keep all options on the table, including the
possibility of a military response.
"We agreed it is paramount that Iran doesn't get nuclear weapons," Obama said.
"Because of the sanctions Iran is ready to talk and we have to test their willingness in good faith," he added.
"We enter talks clear eyed. We take no option off the table including military option to make sure Iran doesn't get nuclear weapons," Obama continued.
Israel has been concerned
that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “charm offensive”, as evinced
at the United Nations General Assembly last week, has chipped away at
Israel’s legitimacy for military action if Tehran crosses the red line
Netanyahu established at the UNGA last year. Obama and Rouhani also spoke by phone last week, the first such conversation since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran that saw the overthrow of the US-backed Shah.
Obama also commended Netanyahu on his efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians, while Netanyahu said that he remains committed to the peace talks.
Netanyahu will meet with Secretary of State Kerry separately later in the day at 3 pm EST, at the same time as Biden begins an address to J Street, an activist organization founded to promote the two-state solution, on the White House's latest Mideast peace push.
The prime minister is also scheduled on Monday to meet with congressional leaders and to attend a congressional reception for outgoing Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren, before flying back to New York.
On Tuesday, he is to address the UN at 12:30 local time, and later in the afternoon to meet Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The rest of the day, and much of Wednesday, before a meeting with US Jewish leaders, he is to give interviews.
Originally he was scheduled to fly back to Israel on Wednesday evening, but now the Prime Minister’s Office is considering adding on a day for more media opportunities.
Netanyahu arrived in New York early on Sunday morning, and besides meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, spent the day in his hotel working with top aides in preparation for the Obama meeting, and for his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Among those prepping the prime minister were outgoing National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror and his replacement, Yossi Cohen, as well as outgoing Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren and his replacement, Ron Dermer.
Netanyahu will be armed in his efforts to show Iran’s malevolent face by Sunday’s publication of the arrest earlier in the month of an alleged Iranian agent who, among other targets, was casing the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.
An official traveling with Netanyahu said the incident showed there was little compatibility between Iran’s words and its actions, and that the Islamic Republic continued to promote terrorism around the globe.
“While the Iranian president sweet-talks the West, the ayatollahs’ Revolutionary Guards continue in their attempts to hurt Western interests in the Middle East, as is evidenced by the fact that the Iranian spy that was caught gathered intelligence on the US Embassy in Israel,” he said.
Just before leaving after midnight on Saturday, Netanyahu said he was going to “represent the citizens of Israel, our national interests, our rights as a people, our determination to defend ourselves and our hope for peace.”
Netanyahu, referring to Rouhani’s blitz last week in the US, said, “I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and the onslaught of smiles. One must talk facts and one must tell the truth.
Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of the State of Israel.”