Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged from their 90-minute meeting in Berlin on Monday still disagreeing about the merits of the Iranian nuclear agreement, but in accord about the need to push Iran out of other countries in the Middle East.
Germany, Merkel said at a press conference with Netanyahu after their meeting, “will exert our influence in such a way that Iran is pushed out of this region,” and that Berlin will take a “very close look at Iran's activities in the region and seek to contain it.”
Netanyahu said that pushing Iran out of Syria is not only important for Israel, but should also be important for Germany because of the prospects of a “religious campaign” inside the country that will push even more refugees toward Germany.
“The Iranians military presence right now in Syria includes about includes 18,000 Shi'a militia, commanded by Iranian commanders,” Netanyahu's said, noting that they come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Iran, he warned, has both a military goal and a religious one.
“Iran wants to increase the number of militia to 80,000 and to basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria – which is 96% Sunni – to try to convert the Sunni. This will inflame another religious war, this time a religious war inside Syria, and the consequences would be many, many more refugees, and you know exactly where they will come,” he said.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Merkel acknowledged that the information Israel provided to Germany and the IAEA from the nuclear archives it spirited out of Iran was important and should be investigated, but said Israel and Germany have a difference of opinion regarding the agreement and its effectiveness.
“Germany did not cancel this agreement, and together with other European partners, we stand by it,” she said. The US withdrew from the accord last month.
Asked how Germany can negotiate with a country whose leader Ali Khamenei tweeted on Sunday that Israel is a “malignant cancerous tumor” that needs to be “removed and eradicated,” Merkel said that Germany strongly condemns and denounced this type of language, including in meeting with the Iranians, but believes the JCPOA is the best way to keep Tehran from getting bomb.
Netanyahu referred to Khamenei’s tweet, and said that it is “amazing that at the beginning of the 21st century, somebody talks about destroying Israel – that means destroying another six million-plus Jews. It is really quite extraordinary that this go on, but this is what we face.”