Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged Britain on Thursday to condition its
restoration of full diplomatic ties with Tehran on Iran ending its calls for the
destruction of Israel.
Netanyahu’s comments to the Financial Times came
during a whirlwind of six interviews Thursday morning with key media outlets in
Britain, France and Germany.
Those three countries, along with the US,
Russia and China, are part of the “P5+1” that will begin negotiating with Iran
in Geneva on Tuesday.
“Iran is calling for the annihilation of the Jewish
state and of a member state of the UN,” Netanyahu said. “It seems sensible that
Britain would say, ‘Before we reestablish diplomatic relations, abandon this.’”
Britain and Iran announced interim steps this week aimed at reopening their
respective embassies, closed since 2011 when the British Embassy compound in
Tehran was overrun by rioters.
Netanyahu is talking to his European
counterparts in the run-up to the Geneva talks, as are National Security Council
head Yaakov Amidror and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz.
At the same
time, Netanyahu has been on a European media blitz which diplomatic sources say
is just one brick in a ratcheted-up campaign prior to the start of the talks.
Last week, the prime minister similarly saturated the US media market with some
eight high-profile interviews.
One government official said that
Netanyahu felt the need to speak to the European media, and not just European
leaders, because the European public has also been the target of Iranian
President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive.
Netanyahu said of Rouhani’s
current diplomatic efforts: “This regime is smiling, and coming and saying, ‘you
know what, let me keep enrichment. I’ll make some tactical cosmetic concessions,
you reduce the sanctions.’” But Netanyahu warned that if the sanctions are
relieved, the whole sanctions regime will collapse.
“So they’ll get
everything, and we – the collective we – will get nothing. If it falls on me to
say something that everybody understands, I’ll say it. And don’t say I didn’t
Netanyahu said he expects Europe to “do the right thing” and
not fall into an Iranian “trap.” His message to the European journalists was
similar to his message in the US.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, and
a bad deal would be a partial agreement which lifts sanctions off Iran and
leaves them with the ability to enrich uranium or to continue work on their
heavy water plutonium, which is what is needed to produce nuclear weapons,” he
told the Financial Times.
In addition to the Financial Times, Netanyahu
interviewed with France’s Le Monde and Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
as well as with the British Sky News, France 24 and Germany’s ARD television
networks. The interview with France 24 and Sky News will be broadcast also by
their Arabic networks.
“At this juncture, we have to say things clearly,
and the clear thing is this: Iran should not have centrifuges; it should not
have plutonium plants. These things should be completely dismantled, as was
stipulated by the Security Council resolutions, as was demanded by the P5+1,” he
While the message was similar to the one he communicated in the US,
he did frame it around distinctly European points of reference.
example, Netanyahu referred to a picture in his office of Winston Churchill, and
recalled what Churchill said about arming the Nazis.
“He said don’t let
the Nazis arm themselves,” Netanyahu said. “Don’t let an implacable, radical
regime have awesome power. And he was right, and there is a lesson to be learned
The lesson, he added, was that a regime with unlimited ambitions
and aggression like Iran should not have the ability to enrich
“Be tough, be strong, be consistent,” he urged the
Netanyahu stressed in the interviews that he was not opposed
to negotiations, nor did he set a deadline for the talks, saying a “good deal”
was important, regardless of whether it took one month more or less to
“The question of time is less important than substance,” he said.
“Diplomacy has to produce an outcome.”
Asked what price Israel might have
to pay for a diplomatic solution, and whether the price might be “making peace
with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said that Israeli- Palestinian peace has
nothing to do with the Iranian question.
“Europe should stop looking for
excuses why it does not take action against Iran,” he said. “If you want to be
soft, be soft.
Don’t give excuses [for the softness] because of a lack of
progress on the Israeli- Palestinian front.”
Netanyahu said Israel wanted
to see progress on the Palestinian track for its own sake, and not because of
any linkage to Iran.
Meanwhile, an exiled Iranian opposition group said
Thursday it had information about what it said was a center for nuclear
weaponization research in Tehran that the government was moving in order to
avoid detection ahead of negotiations with world powers.
National Council of Resistance of Iran exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment
facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002. But analysts say
the council has a mixed track record and a clear political agenda.
accusation it made in July about a secret underground nuclear site under
construction in Iran drew a cautious international response, while the United
States expressed skepticism about another claim in 2010.
NCRI, citing information from sources inside Iran, said a nuclear weaponization
research and planning center it called SPND was being moved to a large, secure
site in a Defense Ministry complex in Tehran about 1.5 km. away from its former
It said the center employed about 100 researchers, engineers
and experts and conducted small-scale experiments with radioactive
“There is a link between this transfer and the date of Geneva
[talks] because the regime needed to avoid the risk of visits by [UN nuclear]
inspectors,” Mehdi Abrichamtchi, who compiled the NCRI report,
Reuters contributed to this report.