Elections take back seat to nuclearized Middle East at cabinet meeting

Netanyahu began the cabinet meeting by once again calling US President Donald Trump “a great friend of Israel.”

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March 11, 2018 15:54
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting, March 11, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting, March 11, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not address the possibility of early elections in public comments before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, choosing instead to focus on the threat of the Iranian nuclear deal resulting in a more widely nuclearized Middle East.

Netanyahu began the cabinet meeting by once again calling US President Donald Trump “a great friend of Israel.” He then said his recent talks in Washington focused on Iran, and that he made clear during those meetings that the nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic has created numerous threats for the world, including that of wider nuclearization in the region.

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“Many countries in the Middle East are saying that if Iran has the right to enrich uranium, they should as well,” Netanyahu said. “Therefore, the way to prevent the danger of nuclearization in the Middle East is to thoroughly correct the agreement, or abrogate it.”

Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that in a closed door meeting with the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Netanyahu came out against a deal in the works that would allow US companies to build as many as 16 nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, enabling the Saudis to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium.

Bloomberg quoted committee chairman Bob Corker as saying Netanyahu was “certainly opposed.”

The Saudis are gearing up for a fight in Washington over the proposed deal and have enlisted “blue-chip lobbyists in Washington” to push for the deal, which could be worth up to $80 billion and prove a huge boost for America’s flagging nuclear-power industry, Bloomberg reported.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry met earlier this month with Saudi officials to discuss the possible deal. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz met with Perry in Houston last Wednesday.

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Channel 10 reported on Friday that during his talks with Trump, Netanyahu “raised concerns” over the possible deal. According to the report, Trump said that if the US did not sell the reactors, the Saudis would turn to the Russians or the Chinese.

If the US was intent on going ahead with the deal, Netanyahu reportedly said, Washington should at least prevent the Saudis from enriching uranium. Trump was non-committal, the report said, and it was agreed that Jerusalem and Washington would continue a dialogue on the matter.

Netanyahu said that fixing or doing away with the Iranian nuclear deal was the only way to prevent other countries in the region from demanding the right to enrich uranium, now that Iran has acquired that right under that deal.

“The best way to prevent the nuclearization of the Middle East is to either fully fix the Iranian deal, or to fully nix it,” he said in New York on Thursday. “This is the only way to prevent the inevitable spread of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons in the Middle East.”

Despite Netanyahu’s protestations, the proliferation of nuclear power in the Middle East is well underway. The first of four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates is scheduled to go online this year, and Egypt, Jordan and Turkey have all signed deals with Russia for the construction of nuclear reactors.

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