BUENOS AIRES — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday reiterated Israel's sharp opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, amid reports that Israel and Saudi Arabia do not want the pact to be scuttled.
“In the case of Iran, there have been stories about Israel’s purported position on the nuclear deal with Iran,” he said on Tuesday after a meeting with Argentinean President Mauricio Macri in the Casa Rosada, the presidential mansion and offices. “Let me take this opportunity to clarify: I’ll be straight forward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it, or cancel it. This is Israel’s position.”
Netanyahu was responding directly to a Reuters report saying that President Donald Trump’s opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was posing dilemma for US policy-makers formulating a policy of more aggressive US responses to Iran’s actions in the region.
Quoting US officials, the reports said that most of Trump’s national security aides favor keeping the pact, “as do US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia despite their reservations about Iran’s adherence to the agreement.”
At a briefing with reporters later, Netanyahu said that the report falsely represented Israel’s position, and that Israel remains opposed to the agreement because “it paves the way of Iran to a nuclear arsenal. It is a bad agreement that needs to be changed.”
Netanyahu, who has used each of his four public appearances here to slam Iran, praised Macri for his decision to reopen the investigation into the bombing of the Israeli Embassy building in 1992, and the AMIA Jewish Community building in 1994.
“I appreciate your commitment and the integrity of your position to discover what happened there,” Netanyahu said, adding that the Iran and Hezbollah initiated and were behind these attacks. Their terrorism has not stopped since then, and must be fought, he said, stressing that in the case of Iran, it is not only terrorism, but its quest for nuclear weapons and the possibility of a “rogue nation” getting an atomic bomb that should concern the world.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pays tribute to bombing victims on arrival to Buenos Aires, September 11, 2017. (Reuters)
Netanyahu’s comments came after an hour-long meeting
with the Argentinean leader.
Macri, in his comments, spoke in general terms about the need to fight terrorism, but otherwise steered clear of geopolitical issues, choosing to stress the two countries’ bilateral relationship, saying that Netanyahu’s visit is a “major step toward enhancing bilateral relations.”
He said that Argentina, like Israel, believes in the talent and energy of its people, and “we want to give that the boost it deserves.” Israel’s experience in this, he said, serves as a “benchmark” from which Argentina can learn.
Both leaders underlined the importance of the Argentinean Jewish community, the sixth largest in the world, with Macri praising its contributions to Argentina, and Netanyahu saying that it is a “human bridge” between the two countries. Netanyahu put the number of Argentinean Jews who live in Israel at 100,000, saying they have contributed to Israel in all fields.
The two sides signed three agreements dealing with security and economic issues, and another transferring digitalized copies of some 140,000 Holocaust era documents to Israel.
These documents deal with both the period of the Holocaust, and afterward – when a number of Nazi war criminals, most prominent among them Adolf Eichmann, found refuge in Argentina. The documents will be transferred to the Foreign Ministry, and to Yad Vashem.
One Foreign Ministry official said that the initiative to transfer the documents to Israel was taken by the Argentineans, as a good will measure and sign of appreciation for Netanyahu’s visit.
Netanyahu told reporters that Israel does not know what is in the documents, but “it will be interesting to see what there is – the possibilities are great.”
Netanyahu was scheduled to meet in the afternoon with Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes, who was flying to the Argentinian capital to meet him. Part of that meeting is expected to deal with Hezbollah activities in that country’s border area with Brazil and Argentina.
Before meeting with Macri, whom Netanyahu said he admired for the economic reforms he was initiating, the prime minister went to the San Martin Palace – the ceremonial seat of the Foreign Ministry – and laid a wreath in honor of the country’s hero of independence, Gen. José de San Martin. Because of security concerns, the colorful ceremony was not held at the monument to San Martin in the nearby public square, but inside the palace itself.
Despite reports that large protests would greet Netanyahu in the Argentinean capital, a group of fewer than a dozen people held signs against him across the street from the San Martin Palace.
Netanyahu, in his briefing with reporters, related to a report saying that he would soon announce that he was leaving politics, characterizing that as “nonsense.”
“I don’t intend on calling new elections,” he said, I plan on continue in the term until the end, and bring the Likud to a big victory in the elections of 2019.”
Asked if, feeling that he has a great deal of popularity on the street, he might prefer calling an election now to strengthen his political hand and give him renewed legitimacy in light of the current investigations, Netanyahu said, “I have learned something in my short term in politics – don’t give up on two years so easily.