Netanyahu: A nuclear Iran is greatest danger to world

PM heckled repeatedly by activists at New Orleans GA protesting West Bank "occupation" and plans for loyalty oath.

311_Netanyahus with Jewish astronaut (photo credit: Avi Ohayun / GPO)
311_Netanyahus with Jewish astronaut
(photo credit: Avi Ohayun / GPO)
 Iran is the greatest threat to the world, and its nuclear program must be stopped, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in his keynote address to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans on Monday.
“The greatest danger facing the world is the prospect of a nuclear Iran,” he said. “It sponsors terror in Lebanon and Gaza, confronts the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, establishes beachheads in Saudi Arabia. Its influence has spread even to this hemisphere in South America. It has done all this without nuclear weapons. Imagine what it will do with them.”
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Speaking at the biggest annual Jewish conference in North America, Netanyahu called on the West to take greater measures against Iran, including the possibility of military action, if it wants to prevent nuclear terrorism.
“The only time Iran suspended its program was in 2003, when it believed it faced a military action,” he said. “If the world wants to stop Iran without military action, it has to convince them that they are willing to take such action.”
The prime minister also spoke about talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which hit a wall over the issue of construction in West Bank settlements shortly after being renewed a few months ago.
“The Palestinians may think they can avoid negotiations. They may think that the world will dictate Palestinian demands to Israel,” Netanyahu told the GA.
Click for full Jpost coverage of the GA 2010Click for full Jpost coverage of the GA 2010
“I firmly believe that will not happen because I am confident that friends of Israel, led by the United States, will not let that happen,” Netanyahu said. “There is only one path to peace ­ that is through a negotiated settlement.”
Netanyahu said at the GA, “I am willing to make mutual compromises for a genuine peace with the Palestinians, but I will not gamble with the security of the Jewish state.”
He called on the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations without preconditions and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
“Israelis want to see that the Palestinians are as committed as they are to ending the conflict once and for all. “They want to know that just as we are ready to recognize a state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel as the state for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.
To the Palestinians, he said, “We should spend the next year trying to reach an historic agreement for peace and not waste time arguing about marginal issues that will not affect the final peace map in any way.”
Netanyahu added that he was confident that if both sides showed goodwill, a formula could be found that would allow the peace process to continue.
During his speech, Netanyahu was interrupted no fewer than six times by protesters demonstrating against the “occupation” of the West Bank and the proposed loyalty oath.
“The loyalty oath delegitimizes the State of Israel,” one man shouted before being quickly dragged out by security.
The prime minister drew uproarious applause from the crowd by countering, “I’m going to talk about delegitimizing Israel but they really have the wrong address.”
After his speech, Netanyahu left New Orleans to head to New York, where he was expected to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It is likely that he will urge Ban not to support Palestinian unilateralism. Other regional topics such as Iran are also likely to be on the agenda.
Prior to Netanyahu, conference-goers heard Steve Schwager, CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, the two main recipients of overseas funds raised by the Federation system.
“We know that when Jews need to be rescued, the JDC will be there,” Schwager said. “We have saved Jews from Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Yemen, and wherever we need to be we will be there tomorrow.”
He added that his organization was creating a new Jewish service corps, expanding its operations around the world by helping “babies in Ukraine” and families who can’t afford firewood during the winter in Azerbaijan.
Sharansky brought up the Jewish Agency’s new strategic plan that focuses on cultivating Jewish identity in Israel and the Diaspora.
“Strengthening one Jewish people by connecting them to their state becomes the answer to the shrinking communities and renewing aliya,” he said.
Earlier in Australia, where they had gone to meet their counterpart and other top officials, both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said they disagreed with Netanyahu about Iran, saying nonmilitary action was the best strategy at this point.
“I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs to, to end its nuclear weapons program,” Gates said. “We are prepared to do what is necessary, but at this point, we are – we continue to believe that the political, economic approach that we are taking is, in fact, having an impact in Iran.”
He noted that US President Barack Obama had said that, regarding Iran, “all options are on the table. And we are doing what we need to do to ensure that he has those options.”
Yet he said the US remained convinced that “nonmilitary actions, including, most significantly, the most recent UN Security Council resolution [in June] and the individual countries’ approval of even more rigorous sanctions, is bringing pressure to bear on the Iranian government that is getting their attention,” adding that the sanctions were more harmful than Teheran anticipated.
Clinton added that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, were scheduled to talk with Iran, but that no date had been set.
But in Israel, Minister of National Infrastructures Uzi Landau told The Jerusalem Post he thought Netanyahu’s stance on Iran was correct whereas the US, while speaking softly, was not carrying a big stick.
“People in the free world are looking for clear leadership and they raise their eyes to America and they are waiting,” he said. He was speaking in Jerusalem on the sidelines of a daylong seminar marking 20 years of diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel sponsored by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.