A day after US President Barack Obama told the Israeli public in his Channel 2 interview that Iran’s stockpile of very highly enriched uranium “is gone,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted on Wednesday that it is precisely those stockpiles that are increasing and threatening Israel.
“There are reports that Iran is continuing to increase its nuclear stockpile as it continues negotiations,” Netanyahu said at the opening of a meeting with visiting New Zea - land Foreign Minister Murray McCully.
Netanyahu said if this development is added together with Iran’s continued development of long-range ballistic missiles, its worldwide terrorist web, its support for rocket attacks on Israel, its activities in Yemen, and the fact that it violates all Security Council resolutions dealing with it, then it all amounts to a serious peace and security challenge in the region.
In contrast to Obama’s statement, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report last week saying that Iran’s stockpile has increased over the past 18 months, with The New York Times reporting that the stockpile has increased some 20 percent.
Neither Netanyahu, nor his spokesmen, nor any of his government’s ministers related to Obama’s interview on Channel 2 in which he said that the nuclear deal being worked out with the Iranians is the best possible option.
In that interview, Obama was also very critical of Netanyahu’s policies regarding the diplomatic track with the Palestinians, saying that the world does not believe Israel is committed to a two-state solution, and that the caveats and conditions Netanyahu has put on the emergence of a Palestinian state make such a likelihood unrealistic for the foreseeable future.
Obama gave no indication of whether the US would veto or try to water down a UN Security Council resolution expected to be brought forward by the French, possibly together with New Zealand, before September that would call for the parameters of a two state-solution and set a deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state and an Israeli withdrawal from the territories.
New Zealand is a temporary member of the 15-nation Security Council, and will serve as that body’s president for the month of July.
Netanyahu wished McCully “a lot of luck” heading the council, and then added that a solution could not be dictated from the outside.
“The main thing we have learned,” he said, “is that peace is achieved, as we did with Jordan and with Egypt, through direct negotiations between parties, and not by fiat it just doesn’t work that way. I hope it works, but it has to work through direct negotiations.”
The position Netanyahu is articulating on this matter in private meetings is that a Security Council resolution of the type that is being proposed would do damage by entrenching Palestinian rejectionism. What motivation will the Palestinians have to negotiate, this argument runs, if they know they will get what they want in terms of borders and Jerusalem in a UN resolution? Earlier in the day, Netanyahu met with Canada’s new foreign minister, Rob Nicholson, and said before the meeting that Israelis feel the country has no better friend in the world than Canada.
“Israel values the support, unstinting, unfaltering, of Canada in an international environment that is often marked by cynicism and double talk,” he said.
Nicholson, in his first visit since taking over as foreign minister in February, said he is in the country “to demonstrate, emphatically, Canada’s unwavering support for Israel.
“We understand that Israel’s neighborhood is as dangerous as Canada’s is peaceful, and so we know that Israel’s leadership has no choice but to take, at all times, every step necessary to protect itself from the forces that are openly committed to its destruction,” he said.
“We’ve long refused to be neutral in supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against violent extremists,” he said, adding that “any who turn their back on Israel, or turn a blind eye to the nature of Israel’s enemies, do so in the long run at their own peril.”
Nicholson also went to Ramallah on Wednesday and met with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.
In addition to meeting with the two foreign ministers, Netanyahu met with the president of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, as well as with a delegation of Brazilian parliamentarians.
“We wanted very much to join you last year at the World Cup,” Netanyahu told the delegation. “We didn’t make it. Now they are trying to prevent us from going to the next World Cup because of political interference in sports and the isolation of Israel,” he added, alluding to the unsuccessful Palestinian effort to kick Israel out of FIFA.
“This is not right, it’s not fair, and this is what worries us,” Netanyahu said.
In a related development, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz left for Washington on Wednesday evening for meetings with US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a key player in the US-Iranian nuclear talks, and with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.
This will be the first US-Israel ministerial meeting since the formation of the new government last month.