The goal of the renewed Iran talks beginning Tuesday in Vienna needs to be keeping Tehran from having the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, not only preventing Iran from acquiring them, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday.
Netanyahu, speaking to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ annual Israel mission, bewailed that the interim deal reached between the world powers and Iran in November only set the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program back by four weeks.
“That is what Iran gave to the world, meaning it has given practically nothing,” he said. “But it has received a great deal – the easing of sanctions, nations queuing up to do more business with it. It has given zero, or practically zero. It has given four weeks, but been legitimized – everyone is embracing Iran because of a smile.”
The prime minister said that the talks on the long-term agreement with Iran, which are to last for six months, need to end with Iran not being allowed to spin any centrifuges.
“They don’t need any centrifuges, and don’t have a right to [uranium] enrichment.”
He acknowledged that this position “was not fashionable,” but said political and economic pressure must be exerted to ensure that Iran dismantles its nuclear program.
“We all want a peaceful solution,” he said, “but for it to succeed we need more, not less, pressure.”
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who spoke to the group just prior to Netanyahu, had a different take on the interim agreement that was reached with the Iranians.
He said that the deal led Iran to eliminate some of its uranium that was enriched to higher levels, dismantle some nuclear infrastructure, cease installing new centrifuges, stop work on the Arak heavy water reactor and provide more transparency for international inspectors.
With that, Shapiro stressed that if Iran did not keep its commitments during the period of the negotiations that begin Tuesday, “we will halt even the modest sanctions relief that has been offered.”
And if a long-term comprehensive solution with Iran cannot be reached, he said, “We are certainly ready to apply additional economic pressure.”
Shapiro said that if ultimately the economic and diplomatic pressure were either not enough or unsuccessful, “all options are on the table, and [US] President [Barack] Obama has assured that a military option is available if necessary.”
Netanyahu, during his speech, said that in addition to the need to restricting Iran’s capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons, Tehran also needed to be “exposed for what it is.” He described it as a regime that executes its own people, sends deadly weapons to terrorist organizations around the globe and enables the continuing slaughter in Syria by instructing its proxy Hezbollah to fight on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
He said Iran’s tentacles reach the Palestinians as well, where Iran controls Gaza through Hamas and Islamic Jihad. “One half of the Palestinians are under Iran’s boot, and the other half refuses to confront them,” he said.
Netanyahu praised US Secretary of State John Kerry for his diplomatic efforts, but said that a deal will be possible only if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and if Israel’s security needs are fully provided for.
He dismissed the idea of an international force on the borders of a future Palestinian state, including a force that would consist of US or NATO troops.
“We don’t ask for Western forces,” he said. “We are perfectly capable of defending ourselves by ourselves.”
Netanyahu also addressed the issue of boycotts, saying that Israel’s enemies – which have failed to dislodge it with conventional means, terrorism, rockets and missiles – “think they will dislodge us with boycotts.”
“The most scary thing, the most disgraceful thing, is to have people on the soil of Europe talking about the boycott of Jews. I think that is an outrage,” he said. “It is important that the boycotters are exposed for what they are: classical anti-Semites in modern garb. I think we have to fight them, to delegitimize the delegitimizers.
It is time to fight back.”
At the end of his speech, as he was accepting a gift from the group, he made a quick reference to Spain’s recent indication of a willingness to grant Spanish passports to descendants of Spanish Jews.
Netanyahu, whose father was a noted historian of the Inquisition, said, “We appreciate the gesture; keep the passports.”