PM: Israel not planning war with Iran

Teheran concerned over new sanctions, Netanyahu says at end of Moscow trip.

February 17, 2010 03:33
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Bibi smiling and pointing 311 ap. (photo credit: Associated Press)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

MOSCOW – Israel is not planning any war, and continued Iranian claims to the contrary reflect Iranian concerns stemming from growing talks about international sanctions, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said here Tuesday.

Netanyahu, speaking at a press conference following his two-hour meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was asked to respond to reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel was planning an imminent war.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

Netanyahu said that these comments were a continuation of manipulations the Iranians were responsible for over the past few weeks, including threats and talk about war coming from Syria.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the things we are hearing are a result of Iran’s feeling that there is an increase in talks about sanctions,” he said.

Partners against Iran
Russia, US and France blast Iran enrichment

Netanyahu said it was clear to him after his meeting with Putin that the Russian prime minister was interested in quiet and stability in the region, and does not want that balance to be broken.

“Russia understands the Iranian problem, and that is obvious even more so today,” Netanyahu said. Netanyahu also met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and characterized both talks as “excellent.”

He was scheduled to leave Moscow Tuesday night and arrive back in Israel early Wednesday morning.

Netanyahu said that he told Putin what he told Medvedev on Monday, and what he told French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, that what was needed immediately was serious sanctions against Iran’s energy sector.

“If this is done then it can, perhaps, have an influence [on the Iranians],” Netanyahu said. “I doubt that anything else would work.”

Netanyahu said that the feeling in Moscow toward sanctions today was dramatically different than what it was some 10 months ago.

Regarding the possibility of talks with Syria, the premier said that these could only take place if the Syrians jettisoned their pre-conditions, and realized that they could not dictate the outcome of the talks before they began. The identity of the intermediary to mediate between the two parties, he said, was a secondary question.

Even as he was calling for “sanctions with teeth” against Iran throughout his two-day stay in Moscow, Netanyahu was consistently asked during various meetings what evidence Israel had that Iran intended its nuclear program for military, and not civilian purposes.

In one meeting Netanyahu said sarcastically that long-range ballistic missiles, which Iran had developed, were not needed for a nuclear program concerned only with medical isotopes. He also said the secret nuclear enrichment facility that was revealed in Qom was also an indication of weaponization.

The prime minister added that there is intelligence information shared by various countries that gives a clear indication of Iran’s intention, and that were Washington to issue a new National Intelligence Estimate today, its conclusions about Iran’s nuclear intent would be significantly different than the one issued in 2007, which said that there was no clear evidence of a Iranian nuclear weapons program.

There is no doubt that the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program is weapons, Netanyahu said, even as Russian officials, as reported in a story on Netanyahu’s visit Tuesday in the Moscow Times, continue to say “there is no direct evidence that Iran is pursuing an atomic bomb.” The prime minister argued that while there was some value to sanctions against Iranian banks and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the only sanctions that might work are aggressive sanctions against Iran’s energy sector, including a ban on refined petroleum imports.

Netanyahu said that sanctions without teeth would have no effect.

Asked about China’s declared opposition to sanctions, and whether Israel was involved in negotiations with Beijing, he said that Israel has a dialogue with China, but that the heavy lifting on this matter is being done by other countries.

Netanyahu dismissed the notion that the sanctions would be slow to work, saying if they were imposed on the energy sector they could have an immediate effect, and the sooner they were imposed the more difficult it would be for the Iranians to bypass them.

Netanyahu warned that a nuclear Iran would lead to a regional arms race that would turn the Middle East into a “nuclear powder keg.” At a time when steps are being taken to look for a peaceful solution in the region, the last thing that was needed was a Middle East where all the countries were seeking nuclear weapons, he said, adding that an atomic Iran would likely lead to a nuclear Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Asked in one meeting about the Israeli domestic political scene, Netanyahu said that regarding the diplomatic process with the Palestinians there was a wide consensus, from Left to Right – with the exception of the extremes on each side – regarding the following points:

• The need to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.

• The willingness to take difficult steps to reach an agreement.

• An understanding that there is no partner on the other side able to take the steps that would make an agreement possible – such as recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and guarantees that further territory vacated by Israel would not turn into a terrorist base, as was the case following Israel’s withdrawals from Gaza and southern Lebanon.

Stressing that Russia is 1,000 times bigger than Israel, Netanyahu said Israel had to ensure that arms could not be smuggled into a future Palestinian state as they are currently being smuggled into Lebanon from Syria, and into Gaza via the Sudan and Egypt. He said that the only way to do this was to have an Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state.

If Israel was the size of Russia, Netanyahu said, he might have a different perspective, but stated that even given its size, Russia was still very jealous of its territorial integrity.

Netanyahu said an agreement, even an international agreement like UN Security Council resolution 1701, would not do the job. Using Lebanon as an example, he said that Hizbullah had some 15,000 missiles before the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and now they have 60,000 to 70,000 missiles.

Related Content

August 20, 2018
Report: Jeremy Corbyn attended conference with senior Hamas figures