'Israel's priority is to prevent a nuclear Iran'

Ahead of fresh talks between world powers, Iran in Kazakhstan, Netanyahu opposes continued negotiations with Tehran.

Netanyahu with Norwegian FM Espen Eide in J'lem 370 (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom GPO)
Netanyahu with Norwegian FM Espen Eide in J'lem 370
(photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed opposition Wednesday to continued world power talks with Iran as it plows forward with its nuclear program, even as the P5+1 is set to hold another round of talks with Iran on Friday in Kazakhstan.
Before meeting visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, Netanyahu said Iran must not be allowed to develop a model whereby it negotiates while in parallel it both develops and threatens to use nuclear arms.
Until now Netanyahu has been careful not to explicitly come out against the P5+1 – the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain – talks with Iran. Following last month’s round of talks he said their only achievement was to enable the Iranians to buy more time.
Netanyahu said there were “many issues in the Middle East,” including the Palestinian issues, but “I think they will be overshadowed if Iran believes it has a license to develop atomic weapons and it pursues the development of these weapons.
We have to make sure this doesn’t happen.”
While talks in the recent past between Norwegian foreign ministers and Israeli prime ministers generally focused on the Palestinian issue, this time the bulk of the discussion focused on Iran, government officials said.
Eide, speaking with Netanyahu before the meeting, said that Norway was a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and is “really concerned about the [Iranian] lack of cooperation, and the fact that we’re allowed to go to the irrelevant sites but not to the [nuclear] sites we want to see.”
He said this was something “we’re raising the volume on.”
In addition to meeting with Netanyahu, Eide also met with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and with Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett.
Bennett suggested to Eide that his country reconsider its Middle East polices in light of the changing regional realities.
“Thousands of rockets that fell on Israel from the Gaza Strip destroyed any remaining faith the Israeli public had in exchanging land for peace,” he said.
“Now we need to defend ourselves by ourselves,” Bennett added. “Israeli children deserve to return to school after the holiday without being afraid a rocket will fall on their classroom.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Israel Monday evening for the second time in just over two weeks, to continue searching for a formula that will lead to the restarting of negotiations with the Palestinians.
Kerry held four hours of talks with Netanyahu and Livni on March 23, the day after US President Barack Obama left Israel. The secretary of state is expected to meet with Netanyahu Monday evening, and with the Palestinian Authority leadership the following morning.
One Israeli official said that while he could not say how often Kerry would be shuttling to the region, “we expect to see his continued involvement.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, meanwhile, gave the green light to Livni – who is to head Israel’s team if and when negotiations restart with the Palestinian Authority – to co-opt Foreign Ministry officials for the negotiating team. Livni put together a negotiating team when she was foreign minister in 2008 and conducted negotiations with Ahmed Qurei.
According to Israeli officials, Kerry is scheduled to fly to London on Monday.
Prior to coming to Israel, Kerry will visit Turkey for the second time in less than two months, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a press conference with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday in Ankara.
Davutoglu said he and Kerry will meet Sunday and “discuss the steps to be taken in the Middle East peace process.”
Shortly after Netanyahu issued an apology last month to the Turkish people for operational mistakes that may have led to the unnecessary loss of life on the Mavi Marmara, Turkish officials said they would now have a key role in the Israeli- Palestinian diplomatic process.
Davutoglu also said he and Kerry will discuss “Syria, Iraq and Cyprus.”
Meanwhile, the Washingtonbased Politico website dubbed Kerry’s visit an “emergency trip” that comes “amid worries that the Obama administration’s newly brokered friendship between Turkey and Israel risks unraveling.”
According to the website, the administration is concerned about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to visit the Gaza Strip, and said this could undermine the USbrokered rapprochement. These plans, according to this report, were met by disapproval in the State Department.
Another topic on the agenda for Kerry in Turkey will be Erdogan’s upcoming meeting with Obama. The Hurriyet Daily News reported that the meeting will take place on May 16, and only became possible after Erdogan accepted Netanyahu’s apology. That apology was part of a framework for an improvement in Turkish-Israeli ties that the US had been advocating for months.
One Israeli official would not rule out the possibility that Erdogan’s meeting with Obama was arranged only when it became clear that Erdogan – despite comments he made immediately after the apology – would not travel to Gaza in April as he announced. The US fears that an Erdogan visit to Gaza would, among other things, boost Hamas at the expense of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.