Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – on the eve of a meeting on Sunday with
French President François Hollande, the leader inside the P5+1 whose thinking on
Iran is most closely aligned with his own – urged Paris to hang tough and not
waver in the Iranian negotiations.
In an interview that appeared on
Saturday with the French daily Le Figaro, Netanyahu said that Israel and France
have shared a common position on Iran for many years, and that this has
continued under Hollande.
“We salute his consistent and determined
position on Iran,” Netanyahu said. “We hope that France will not
Hollande and his Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius are expected to
receive an especially warm welcome when they arrive at the head of a large
French delegation on Sunday for a three-day trip, Hollande’s first since
becoming president 18 months ago.
French objections are widely viewed
having held up an agreement with Iran
last Saturday night.
expected to be the central focus of the talks, but the Palestinian issue is also
on the agenda, with Jerusalem bracing for criticism from Hollande over
Well aware of France’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia
and the Persian Gulf countries, Netanyahu stressed in the newspaper interview
that there is a “meeting of the minds” between Israel and the “leading states in
the Arab world” on this issue – “one of the few cases in memory, if not the
first case in modern times.
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“We all think that Iran should not be allowed
to have the capacities to make nuclear weapons,” he said. “We all think that a
tougher stance should be taken by the international community. We all believe
that if Iran were to have nuclear weapons, this could lead to a nuclear arms
race in the Middle East, making the Middle East a nuclear
Saying that an Iran with nuclear arms would be the most
dangerous development for the world since the mid- 20th century, and stressing
that the “stakes are amazing,” Netanyahu urged the world’s leaders to pay
attention “when Israel and the Arabs see eye-to-eye.”
“We live here,” he
said. “We know something about this region. We know a great deal about Iran and
its plans. It’s worthwhile to pay attention to what we say.”
officials said one reason for France’s tough position on Iran – the toughest
position among the P5+1 states that also include the US, Russia, China, Britain
and Germany – has something to do with its close ties to Saudi Arabia and the
United Arab Emirates, which are as adamantly opposed to Iran getting nuclear
weapons as is Israel.
Asked what kind of deal Israel would be willing to
countenance, Netanyahu cited previous UN Security Council resolutions saying
that Iran should “roll back its nuclear weapons making capabilities, which means
no centrifuges and no heavy water reactors.”
The prime minister urged
against giving “any break” to Iran, which he said is enabling Syrian President
Bashar Assad in the murder of tens of thousands of people, spreading terrorism
around the globe, arming Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, calling for
Israel’s destruction, and involved in subversion in many lands.
In a rare
direct answer to a question about the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel has
not signed, Netanyahu said the treaty has proven largely meaningless in the
Middle East because the problems have arisen from those who did sign it, not
those who did not.
He pointed out that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a
signatory to the NPT, but tried to develop atomic bombs. In addition, Libya,
Syria and Iran are all signatories, but blatantly violated it.
problem in the Middle East is not those who don’t sign the NPT,” he said in an
allusion to Israel. “The problem in the Middle East is those who do sign the NPT
and leave it as an empty document.
“All proliferation is bad, but some of
it is worse,” he said. “It really makes a difference whether Holland gets
nuclear weapons or the ayatollah regime in Iran gets nuclear weapons. That’s a
And this is the simplest thing to
Netanyahu also, in his own voice, discussed publicly for one
of the first times Israel’s preference for a future arrangement in Syria, saying
that between Assad and a rebellion widely infiltrated by jihadist elements,
Israel was hoping for a “third way.”
An Assad victory, he said, “would be
a sign of triumph for Iran.”
On the other hand, he said that he was well
aware of the intentions of some rebel groups liked to al-Qaida.
why we would like the possibility of another way to put an end to the Syrian
tragedy,” he said, but did not elaborate.
Hollande is scheduled to arrive
with his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, seven ministers and some 200 aides,
businessmen and journalists at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
welcoming ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport, he will go directly to the President’s
Residence in the capital for a formal reception and meeting with President
He will then lay a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl,
visit Yitzhak Rabin’s grave, and go to Yad Vashem.
In the evening he has
a private meeting planned with Netanyahu, followed by a joint press conference,
and then dinner with the prime minister.
On Monday, following a visit to
Jerusalem’s Old City, he will go to Ramallah for some five hours, after which he
will return to Jerusalem, address the Knesset and attend a state dinner hosted
On Tuesday, after visiting the graves at the Har Hamenuchot
cemetery in Jerusalem of the victims of the March 2012 Toulouse terrorist
attack, he will take part in a joint economic meeting in Tel Aviv and meet
French Israelis at Tel Aviv University.
He will leave Tuesday afternoon.
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