Netanyahu and Trump.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he is preparing to work with incoming US president Donald Trump on “how to deal” with the international agreement with Iran governing its nuclear program that Israel has long opposed.
Answering questions by satellite posed by the Brookings Institution’s annual Saban Forum, Netanyahu reiterated his belief that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a “bad deal” that paves Tehran’s path to nuclear-weapons capacity.
“The problem of how to deal with this deal is something I will discuss with president Trump when he takes office,” he said. “Iran has actually become an even more aggressive power.”
Trump has invited Netanyahu to the Oval Office at the earliest opportunity – a meeting for which the prime minister said he is already preparing.
“We have to stop Iran’s march to the bomb, development of long-range ballistic missiles and support for terrorism around the world,” said Netanyahu.
“Israel is committed – and when I say we’re committed, we’re committed,” he said, answering a question from the forum’s host, Haim Saban, on whether he would ever take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The prime minister met with Trump during his visit to New York in September alongside the United Nations General Assembly in New York. At the time, the Republican presidential nominee made clear his interest in remaining engaged in the Middle East, Netanyahu said.
“I don’t think he’s going to put the world aside,” he said. “I don’t see that at all. In fact, I think the contrary is true.”
The prime minister did not appear interested in engaging in extensive conversation on the growth of an American movement known as the alt-right – a white nationalist, anti-immigrant and antisemitic political coalition associated with the political Right that aligned itself with Trump throughout his candidacy.
Addressing its rise to political prominence, Netanyahu focused on a movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel as a hypocritical and antisemitic effort on the far Left.
“You always have antisemitism at the ultras – the ultra-Left and the ultra- Right,” he said. “I think it’s a marginalized phenomenon, contrary to what people think.”
Audience questions largely focused on Israel’s continuing conflict with the Palestinians, which Netanyahu answered with familiar lines; he is willing to meet with Palestinian Authority leadership anywhere and at any time, he said, without preconditions, and rejects that settlement activity is a core issue to the conflict.
One former Obama administration official asked Netanyahu what he would do if Trump offered Israel carte blanche on settlement construction.
“We have been doing what we want,” Netanyahu replied. “The core of this conflict is the persistent refusal to accept a Jewish state in any boundary.”