PM returns from DC: Israel has right to defend itself

US envoy Shapiro says it’s not new policy and that Obama knows this.

March 7, 2012 14:11
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu  returns from US

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu returns from US 370. (photo credit: HERB KEINON)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu returned Tuesday from a five-day trip to the US and Canada, saying it was a “very important visit” and that he succeeded in promoting Israel’s strategic interests.

After stepping off the plane at Ben- Gurion Airport, Netanyahu once again picked up the theme that he emphasized during his trip: The right of Israel to defend itself as it sees fit.

“We are back for Purim and the reading of Megilat Esther,” Netanyahu said.

“Those were days when the Jews did not determine their own fate, or were unable to protect themselves against threats. We are in a different world, a different era.”

Netanyahu – in an obvious reference to Iran – said the Jewish people still faced threats, but now has the ability to defend itself and be the “masters of its own fate.”

These words upon landing echoed the passionate speech he gave at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference on Monday night, where he said that as prime minister he would “never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”

His speech came a day after US President Barack Obama spoke at AIPAC and requested that all parties tone down the rhetoric.

“Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program,” Obama said.

“For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster... Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from [former president] Teddy Roosevelt: ‘Speak softly; carry a big stick.’” US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told The Jerusalem Post, “I have no problems with the prime minister’s speech.”

“I think the president made a general point that there has been a lot of loose talk about this subject that has probably benefitted Iran more than anyone else. And in the weeks ahead it is probably advisable for both governments, the media and commentators to tone down that conversation,” he said.

Asked who Obama was referring to directly, Shapiro said, “it applies to everyone.”

The ambassador – along with extended staff from both sides – took part in the second half of the Obama- Netanyahu meeting Monday and then flew back to Israel on the prime minister’s flight.

He characterized the meeting as a “good conversation” that was a continuation of the close coordination between the two governments. “It did not stop yesterday, and will continue in coming weeks,” he said.

There was a “great deal of convergence” on how Obama and Netanyahu view Iran, especially the unacceptability of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, Shapiro said. The president made it clear he was “absolutely determined to prevent it from happening.”

Though Obama believes sanctions and diplomacy still have “time to work,” Shapiro said the US president stressed that containment of a nuclear Iran was not an alternative, and that “all options are on the table.”

Officials in Netanyahu’s entourage said the prime minister scored three important achievements during the visit: keeping Iran at the center of the world’s attention; focusing the discussion not only on the cost of an attack on Iran, but also the price that will be paid if Iran obtains nuclear weapons; and Israel’s right to act to defend itself as it sees fit.

Asked if there was ever any doubt in the US about Israel’s sovereign right to protect itself, Shapiro said “there is nothing new about that,” and that Obama emphasized the point in his address to AIPAC. “This is not a new policy,” he said.

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