NEW YORK – If Iran becomes a nuclear threshold state, the prospect of regime change inside the Islamic Republic will fade even further, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
Netanyahu, speaking in New York to some 250 Jewish community leaders and activists, said that the nuclear threshold status would give the regime an aura of “immortality and inevitability,” as happened in North Korea.
The prime minister’s comments came a day before he was scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama in Washington, where Netanyahu said Iran would be a main focus of the discussion.
Israel is increasingly concerned that the fight against Islamic State will lead some in the West to want to make concessions to Iran on the nuclear issue in order to mobilize Iran in the fight against the organization.
Netanyahu said that although one day there may indeed be regime change inside Iran, this was not something on which Israel could base policy.
The prime minister – picking up on the “Hamas is Islamic State” theme that he hit upon hard at the UN a day earlier (an equation not necessarily accepted in Washington) – held up a picture of the impending execution of a man with a sack over his head in Gaza.
“This isn’t ISIS [Islamic State], this is Hamas,” he said. “And during the recent fighting in Gaza, right around the time that ISIS was doing its grisly deeds, Hamas executed dozens of Palestinians just to impose fear and force the population of Gaza into submission. It’s true there are some differences between Hamas and ISIS – for example, ISIS beheads people and Hamas puts a bullet in the back of their heads.”
But to the victims and to their families, he said, “the horror is the same.”
He said that his point is that share a fanatic ideology. “They all have not only unbridled ambitions but also savage methods. And the more they have the capability to realize their ambitions, the more they’ll unleash their pent-up aggression against our common civilizations.”
After elaborating a bit more on the themes he raised in his UN speech, Netanyahu dedicated the remainder of his 15-minute address to praising the soldiers who took part in Operation Protective Edge.
Referring to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s famous description of Israel as a spider’s web that will disappear when blown upon, Netanyahu said, “some spider web.”
“One of the great things that happened this summer was to see the courage and heroism of the soldiers of Israel,” he said to applause. “What strength, what valor – in the biblical sense. What a generation was born in Israel. What strength of the people expressed through the soldiers who fought a war so just, and who were willing to throw themselves into the maelstrom.”
Netanyahu said it was a source of great pride and hope “that the Jewish people can defend themselves with the sons and daughters of Israel that can stand up in comparison with any generation.”
The warm reception he received Tuesday contrasted with the more tepid response he received at the UN.
When he walked into the ballroom, where everyone was already on their feet applauding, he quipped, “This is a tough crowd.”
Among those in the audience were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who visited Israel over the summer, and former senator Joe Lieberman.
Just as recently retired New York Yankee legend Derek Jeter received a shout-out in Netanyahu’s UN address, his shadow loomed over Tuesday’s event as well, with Malcolm Hoenlein, the head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, giving Netanyahu a pinstripe jersey with Jeter’s name and number on the back.
Following the meeting with the Jewish leaders, Netanyahu was scheduled to meet in the afternoon with UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon. He was then expected to hold a number of meetings with advisers in preparation for Wednesday’s meeting in Washington with US President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu will fly to Washington in the morning for the meeting, and return to New York in the afternoon.
He is scheduled to fly back to Israel on Thursday.
On Tuesday, he met with top US journalists, and was also scheduled to meet later in the afternoon with the editorial board of The New York Times, a newspaper that has been extremely critical of his policies. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet with the editorial board of The Washington Post, which has taken a more sympathetic editorial position.
Netanyahu – according to the New York Post – dined Monday evening after his UN speech with Sheldon Adelson, his friend and the owner of Israel Hayom and Makor Rishon. Adelson was a major contributor to Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign to unseat Obama. The Prime Minister’s Office did not discuss the Adelson dinner.On illegal migrants
Israel has the right to control its borders and prevent being flooded by economic migrants seeking to make 100 times what they make in Eritrea, Netanyahu said. In an answer to a question posed at a meeting with Jewish leaders by a representative from HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), who asked about the recent Supreme Court decision to close the detention facility in the south, Netanyahu stressed that the overwhelming majority of migrants were not asylum seekers, and that Israel lets in asylum seekers. To prove his point, he pointed to the field hospital set up in the Golan for wounded from the fighting in Syria.
The questioner said that Israel’s policy on the migrant issue was hurting in the fight against the BDS movement in the US.
Netanyahu said that if he had not decided to erect a fence in the south to keep out the migrants, then within a decade there would have been between 800,000 to a million migrants in the country.
“Remember the Jewish and Democratic state?” he said. “We have the right to control our borders.”
Israel, he said, doesn’t have to “open our doors to be swamped by the inadequacies of the way other people run their economies.”
He said that the detention camp was part of an overall policy not only of preventing migration with the fence, but also deterring attempts to infiltrate with the knowledge that even if the migrants get across the border, they would end up in a detention facility, not with work.
The combination of the two, he said, brought illegal migration down to “zero.” Israel, he said, is “the only country that has gotten control of its borders and we intend to keep it that way.”
Regarding how the government will deal with the Supreme Court ruling, he said, “We will deal with it in the appropriate way, because we are a law abiding country.”
He did not elaborate.
Following the meeting with the Jewish leaders, Netanyahu was scheduled to meet in the afternoon with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He was then expected to hold a number of meetings with advisors in preparation for Wednesday’s meeting in Washington with US President Barack Obama. Netanyahu will fly to Washington in the morning for the meeting, and return to New York in the afternoon. He is scheduled to fly back to Israel on Thursday.
On Tuesday he met with top US columnists, editors and publishers, and was also scheduled to meet later in the afternoon with the editorial board of The New York Times
, a newspaper which has been extremely critical of his policies. On Wednesday he is scheduled to meet as well with the editorial board of The Washington Post
, which has taken an editorial position more sympathetic to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu -- according to The New York Post
-- dined Monday evening after his UN speech with Sheldon Adelson, his friend and the owner of Yisrael Hayom and Makor Rishon. Adelson was a major contributor to Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign to unseat Obama.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not discuss the Adelson dinner.