Netanyahu: Israel doesn't fear solitude on Iran, but we're not alone

PM says many in int'l community share Israel's views on Iran; Iranian deputy FM travels to Vienna to meet IAEA chief Amano.

Netanyahu cabinet meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu cabinet meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday he does not fear standing alone as an advocate for increased economic pressure on Iran, even as he assured the ministers that many in the international community shared Israel’s views.
“I have been asked if I am concerned about standing alone in an isolated position against the world. First of all, the answer is no,” Netanyahu said.
In the past months the prime minister has been portrayed as leading a solitary campaign to increase economic pressure on Iran precisely at a time when the international community is disposed to refrain from further financial penalties as a good will gesture to help improve the chances of a negotiated solution.
On Sunday Netanyahu defended that characterization, even as he explained he does not believe its reflective of reality.
“This [halting Iran’s nuclear program] is vital and important for the security of Israel and, in my view, the peace of the world. Then certainly we are willing to stand alone in the face of world opinion or changing fashion,” Netanyahu said.
“But in fact we are not alone because most, if not all leaders, those with whom I have spoken, agree with us.
There are those who say so fully and there are those who whisper and there are those who say so privately. But everyone understands that Iran cannot be allowed to retrain the ability to be within reach of nuclear weapons,” he said.
The prime minister briefed his cabinet on his conversation in Rome last week with US Secretary of State John Kerry and explained that halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program was one of the main topics in their seven hour meeting.
He also reacted to conflicting reports out of Iran with regard to whether it had halted or continued to enrich uranium up to 20 percent.
Netanyahu said the debate was “unimportant” because the standard of 20% uranium enrichment was no longer a sign of whether Iran would have nuclear military capacity.
“The importance of the issue became superfluous in the wake of the technological improvements that allow Iran to enrich uranium from 3.5% to 90% in a number of weeks,” Netanyahu said.
Israel believes that once that happens, Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon.
It believes it has held off from such production because of the economic sanctions that were leveled against it and out of fear of the new round of sanctions which the US Senate was expected to vote on this week.
The White House, however, has asked the Senate to hold off on the vote as a gesture to Iran, which is now engaged in negotiations with the six parties – the US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany – to allow time for a diplomatic solution.
But Netanyahu has told the US, that the economic pressure against Iran should be increased as long as the country continues to enrich uranium and has not dismantled its nuclear weapons program.
“The clear position that I outlined there during and after the discussions and to the media, which we are presenting around the world, is that Iran must dismantle its enrichment ability and its heavy water reactor as part of the process of preventing it from achieving nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.
“And because it is continuing to enrich, sanctions must be increased. Iran with nuclear weapons will change the Middle East and the world for the worse.”
Meanwhile, Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Association, is expected to meet with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on Monday.
The meeting is expected to last an hour and will be followed that same day by a new round of negotiations between senior officials from both sides over a stalled IAEA investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Iran, which denies the charge.
In Geneva on November 7 and 8, the six parties will renew their negotiations with Iran.
Also in Washington this week, Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will hold a briefing on Thursday on the status of nuclear talks with Iran for members of a US Senate committee considering tough new sanctions on Tehran, Senate aides said on Friday.
Reuters contributed to this report.