Netanyahu urges ministers to keep quiet on Iran

Danon to convene Likud activists to plan strategy to balance pressure on Netanyahu from the US.

September 28, 2013 22:56
2 minute read.
Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett arriving for cabinet meeting, April 28, 2013.

Naftali Bennett at cabinet meeting 370. (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Yediot Aharonot)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Yarden Vatikai called ministers over the weekend urging them not to give interviews on Iran after Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett told the BBC that the West needed to paralyze the Islamic Republic with sanctions.

Bennett said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was smartly using warm and fuzzy rhetoric to cover violent actions.

“Soft words in New York don’t stop centrifuges in Natanz,” Bennett said. “We need to focus on what he does, not what he says.”

When asked what Israel would like to see happen with Iran, Bennett said: “We’d love a diplomatic resolution to this problem. The West needs to be tightening sanctions. Otherwise Iran won’t do a thing.”

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), who is close to Netanyahu, warned of Israeli action if a diplomatic solution is not reached with Iran. Hanegbi told Israel Radio that if no agreement was reached, Israel should take self-protective action to remove the Iranian nuclear threat. He added that Israel has made it clear that it reserves the right to protect its security and US President Barack Obama recognizes this right.

Two Likud ministers canceled interviews on Iran with Channel 2’s show Meet the Press after receiving requests from the Prime Minister’s Office. But deputy defense minister Danny Danon went on the show and said he trusted Netanyahu to handle the issue well.

Danon criticized Obama on the show for tying together the Iranian and Palestinian issues. The deputy defense minister will convene Likud activists Sunday to plan strategy to balance pressure on Netanyahu from the US.

Labor leadership candidate Isaac Herzog called upon Netanyahu to fire Danon and advance the peace process.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said the prime minister’s trip to New York was an important opportunity to commit to a permanent solution with the Palestinians based on pre-1967 borders.

On Iran, Gal-On said she understood Netanyahu’s skepticism of Rouhani but urged giving a chance to the diplomatic approach with Iran.

“If there is a way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon without another war, then we have a moral obligation to exhaust this path,” Gal-On wrote on her Facebook page.

She pleaded with Netanyahu not to scold world leaders in his speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

“Instead of preaching and a condescending speech at the UN and telling Obama and world leaders how to do their jobs, the time has come for our prime minister to look at himself in the mirror and maybe, just maybe start fixing damage he has caused.”

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