Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives interview to BBC Persian.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
The current Iranian regime is perpetuating the tradition of Haman from 2,500 years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday – Purim – in an interview with the BBC’s Persian-language television news channel.
During the interview, conducted in English, Netanyahu said that Israel has always had great respect for the people of Iran, “from the days of King Cyrus, who was a great friend of the Jewish people.
“But unfortunately, there was another tradition in Persia, and that was the tradition of Haman, who 2,500 years ago sought to destroy the Jewish people in the way that Hitler sought to destroy,” said Netanyahu, who later in the day attended a reading of the Book of Esther to mark Shushan Purim in Jerusalem.
“We prefer the tradition of Cyrus,” he said. “This regime continues the tradition of Haman. And I hope that we find a way to change those policies. Certainly we shouldn’t reward them with nuclear weapons.”
Haman “ultimately was defeated and a better tradition emerged, and that was very good. That’s what we need to do right now too,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said that throughout history there have been continuous attempts to annihilate the Jews, “including most recently in the Holocaust. Somebody came, rose to power and said, ‘We’re going to destroy all the Jews in the world.’” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted just a few month ago nine ways and reasons to destroy Israel, Netanyahu said, adding that to protect itself, Israel wants to make sure that “Khamenei doesn’t have the means to create another Holocaust.”
The current Iranian government’s “aggressive design,” coupled with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a radical regime, “is not merely a danger to Israel, but a danger to the region, a danger to the world and ultimately a great danger to the people of Iran,” the prime minister said.
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For “our common sake, this regime should not have nuclear weapons,” he said.
During the interview, Netanyahu deflected questions about Israeli plans to scuttle the Iranian nuclear program, saying “We hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.”
He also deflected the argument that Israel has a reported nuclear capacity and has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as has Iran, saying that the difference is that Israel – unlike the Islamic Republic – has not called for nor is trying to annihilate any country.
“The problem in the Middle East is not those who signed or didn’t sign the NPT, it’s actually the ones who did sign the NPT and violated it, like Libya’s [former leader Muammar] Gaddafi, like [President Bashar] Assad of Syria, like Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Iran itself,” he said.
Regarding his speech to Congress on Tuesday, the prime minister said he felt his message not to give Tehran a clear path to the bomb “actually hit home,” and succeeded in getting people to “focus on this issue” and understand there “is a problem” with the emerging deal.
He also said that many people in Iran understand the cost to them of the nuclear program.
“They’ve been hijacked by these religious zealots who invest billions and billions and billions into this nuclear weapons program” instead of in health, education, welfare and infrastructure development, Netanyahu said.
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