Netanyahu to Merkel: Make real, not cosmetic, changes to Iran deal

Netanyahu is scheduled to address the Davos conference on Thursday evening.

January 24, 2018 22:46
4 minute read.
Netanyahu to Merkel: Make real, not cosmetic, changes to Iran deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 24, 2018.. (photo credit: BUNDESREGIERUNG/GUIDO BERGMANN/HANDOUT VIA REUTER)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday to fix the Iranian nuclear deal by introducing real, not cosmetic, changes in the accord.

He met with Merkel, and a number of other world leaders, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the day before he is scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump. Iran is expected to be the focus of the talks with Trump.

One of Netanyahu’s messages to European leaders in recent days has been to take Trump seriously regarding the nuclear agreement, and that the US president will leave the accord if it is not “fully fixed.”

After meeting with Merkel, the prime minister said he expressed his view to her that only real changes “will prevent Iran from going nuclear, which would otherwise be assured by the agreement as it stands.”

According to Netanyahu, Merkel said she understands Israel’s concerns about the nuclear agreement, even though “she does not necessarily agree with the way in which we want to deal with it.

“I am satisfied that our positions have been well understood,” he added.

The Europeans, he said, “will hold discussions among themselves, and with the US, but she understands that this touches on our concerns, the things that could threaten our very existence.”

Netanyahu said he expressed appreciation to Merkel for her “genuine commitment” to Israel’s security, a commitment that she has proven in the past “at various opportunities.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2018 (GPO)

Germany and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5+1) negotiated the deal with Iran in 2015. Like all the other countries in the P5+1, with the exception of the US, Germany has come out against altering it. France, too, is opposed to tinkering with the accord, and Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with President Emmanuel Macron later on Wednesday evening.

On January 12, Trump signed a waiver keeping the US nuclear- related sanctions off of Iran, thereby keeping the US in the deal for the time being. But Washington has made clear it has no intention of signing the waiver again, meaning there are just under 120 days left for negotiating with the Europeans a supplemental deal to impose new terms on the Iranians.

Germany and France, together with Britain, are hoping that addressing Iran’s ballistic missile development and taking steps to curb its Mideast proxies, such as Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen, will satisfy the US president.

Netanyahu’s position is that gaping holes in the deal need to be addressed, first and foremost the various “sunset clauses” that set expiration dates on the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program if it abides by the deal.

Trump is scheduled to arrive in Davos on Thursday, with Netanyahu one of only three world leaders with whom he is scheduled to hold a meeting, the others being British Prime Minister Theresa May, Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Swiss President Alain Berset. This will be the fourth time Netanyahu and Trump have met since Trump took office last January, and they are tentatively scheduled to meet again in Washington in March.

Netanyahu is scheduled to address the Davos conference on Thursday evening.

The other leaders Netanyahu met with on Wednesday include Berset, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Kagame and Guatemalan Finance Minister Julio Hector Estrada.

Netanyahu issued a statement saying that in the meetings with Trudeau and the European leaders, he stressed that Israel would not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria, and said that Israel is working to prevent this.

Regarding the Palestinian issue – the Palestinians want Europe to replace the US as the lead mediator in the diplomatic process – Netanyahu, according to a statement put out by his office, said he will “not compromise on Israel’s security needs in any future agreement.”

The prime minister has said in the past that for security reasons, Israel will need to retain control of the Jordan Valley, as well as the western borders of any future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s meeting with Kagame, the third in less than a year, comes against the background of the uproar regarding a plan to deport African migrants to a third country, widely believed to be Rwanda.

The Rwandan government has denied, however, that it has signed a secret agreement with Israel to take in migrants against their will.

The meeting with the Guatemalan finance minister, meanwhile, comes within the context of Guatemala’s decision last month to follow the US lead and also move its embassy to the capital, Jerusalem.

“I have great appreciation for President [Jimmy] Morales’s firm stance on Jerusalem, and I also greatly appreciate our friendship,” Netanyahu said. “We appreciate what you’ve done."

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