By installing new, faster centrifuges, Iran is shortening by one-third the time it will take to produce “one nuclear bomb’s worth of highly enriched uranium,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday.
Netanyahu, speaking to the annual meeting in Jerusalem of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the Iranians had not crossed the red line he outlined during his speech to the UN in September, but that the faster centrifuges means it will take them less time to do so.
In September, he said the Iranians could reach that point by the spring or the summer.
“I drew a line at the UN, they haven’t crossed that line, but what they are doing is shortening the time it will take them to cross that line,” he said.
“This has to be stopped for the interest of peace and security for the entire world.”
Netanyahu reiterated his position that the way to stop the Iranians is to “put greater pressure on them, upgrade the sanctions.” Plus, he said, “they have to know that if the sanctions and diplomacy fail, they will face a credible military threat. That is essential, and nothing else will do the job, and it is getting closer.”
Turning to Syria, Netanyahu described it as an “undeveloped country with the world’s most developed weapons.” In addition to chemical weapons, he said, Syria has “other strategic weapons that can change the balance of power in the Middle East.”
Netanyahu said Israel would not “sit idly by and let those weapons fall into the hands of terrorists.”
Regarding the Palestinian track, Netanyahu said he believes the framework for peace remains what he outlined in his Bar-Ilan University speech four years ago: two states for two peoples, “a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
To reach that solution, he said, it is necessary to negotiate in good faith, and this means not placing preconditions for the talks.
“For the last four years, the Palestinians have placed preconditions time after time, precondition after precondition.
My hope is that they leave these preconditions aside and get to the negotiating table so we don’t waste another four years.”
Netanyahu said that these three issues were the main topics he would discuss with US President Barack Obama when he comes in March. Netanyahu said Obama’s visit is a “wonderful opportunity” to reaffirm the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States.
Netanyahu said he has worked together very closely with Obama, “closer perhaps than meets the eye.”
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro spoke before Netanyahu and said the Obama visit was a chance to “reaffirm our deep and enduring ties, and convey recognition that we have a common set of interests to advance and protect, and common challenges to tackle together.”
Alluding to how the visit will be perceived in the region, Shapiro said it will “underscore to key audiences the importance and unbreakable quality of the relationship between us.”
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak took off for the US on Monday for security talks with senior American defense and intelligence officials. Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor is acting defense minister until Barak’s return.
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