PM plays 'Iran card' in coalition building efforts

At weekly cabinet meeting Netanyahu uses Iranian nuclear threat to call for parties to join him in effort to form a broad government; "this is not what is happening," he says in reference to coalition negotiations.

Netanyahu cabinet 3.3.13 370 (photo credit: Pool/ Yonatan Zinadel)
Netanyahu cabinet 3.3.13 370
(photo credit: Pool/ Yonatan Zinadel)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu played the “Iran card” on Sunday in calling for Israel’s various political parties to join him and form a broad coalition to face the country’s massive challenges.
Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu referred to last week’s talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain – in Kazakhstan, and said the Iranians once again succeeded in buying time.
“My impression from these talks is that the only thing that was achieved was to stall for time during which Iran intends to continue enriching nuclear material for an atomic bomb,” the prime minister said. “And it is indeed continuing and getting closer toward this goal.”
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represented the US at the talks, briefed Netanyahu’s national security adviser Ya’acov Amidror late last week on the Kazakhstan negotiations.
“I must say that at this time our enemies are uniting in order to bring about not only atomic weapons that could be used against us, but other deadly weapons that are piling up around us,” Netanyahu said, in an apparent reference to Israel’s concerns that chemical weapons and advanced weapons systems in Syria will fall into the hands of Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations.
“At a time when they are coming together and uniting their efforts, we also must come together and unite our forces to repel these dangers,” he said.
Unfortunately, he added, in a reference to the current coalition negotiations, “this is not happening. I will continue my efforts in the coming days to try and unite forces and bring them together ahead of the major national and international tasks that we face.”
The Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, would not relate to speculation that – just as Netanyahu used the Iranian and Syrian challenges on Sunday to call for a broad coalition – the Prime Minister’s Office leaked on Saturday for political purposes that Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah met in Amman last week to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process.
According to media speculation, news of the meeting could conceivably help Netanyahu to entice Labor Party head Shelly Yacimovich into the coalition, because it presents Netanyahu as making efforts to advance the diplomatic process.
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office would not confirm or deny reports of the meeting.
Meanwhile, Iranian media reported on Sunday that the country is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges. Tehran said earlier this year that it would install the new-generation centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central Iran, but Sunday’s reports in Iranian agencies appeared to be the first time a specific figure had been given.
The announcement, which comes after talks between Iran and world powers in Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again, underlines Iran’s continued refusal to bow to Western pressure to curb its nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said in February that 180 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings had been put in place at the facility near the town of Natanz, but were not yet operating.
Iranian media on Sunday paraphrased Fereydoun Abbasi- Davani, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, as saying Iran was producing 3,000 new-generation centrifuges.
“The final production line of these centrifuges has reached an end and soon the early generations of these centrifuges with low efficiency will be set aside,” Abbasi-Davani said in statements in the Iranian city of Isfahan, according to the Fars news agency.
An IAEA note informing member states in January about Iran’s plans implied the country could install up to 3,000 or so of the new centrifuges.
Natanz is designed for tens of thousands of the machines. If launched successfully, such machines could enable Iran to speed up significantly its accumulation of material that could be used in a nuclear weapon.
Iran has been trying for years to develop centrifuges more efficient than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses, but their introduction for full-scale production has been dogged by delays and technical hurdles, experts and diplomats say.
Reuters contributed to this report. •