Netanyahu: I’m focusing on stopping nuclear Iran, not Congress flap

Defense minister urges Israelis to visit Golan, Hermon

 Prime Minister Benjmain Netanyahu makes an address at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, January 30, 2015 (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjmain Netanyahu makes an address at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, January 30, 2015
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Amid the controversy regarding his planned speech to Congress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Friday during a visit to soldiers wounded in Wednesday’s attack that Israel is adamantly opposed to the agreement the world powers are negotiating with Iran.
“It is possible to solve procedural problems related to my appearance in the United States,” he said, “but if Iran obtains nuclear arms, that is something that will be a lot more difficult to solve, and that is what we are opposed to and are focusing on.”
Netanyahu is expected to use his speech to the joint session of Congress scheduled for March 3 to argue against the agreement, and for stronger sanctions – a position placing him at odds with US President Barack Obama.
“We are in a continuous struggle with Iran, which is opening new fronts against us, which is engaged in terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world,” Netanyahu said. “This is the same Iran that the world powers are now working toward an agreement that would leave in its hands the ability to develop a nuclear bomb. That is an agreement we are opposed to.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited the Hiram (769) territorial brigade, responsible for securing the eastern sector of Israel’s border with Lebanon on Friday, and held security evaluations with OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, as a tense calm returned to the North.
Ya’alon also met with the commander of the Galilee (91) Division, Brig.-Gen. Moni Katz, and the 769 Brigade commander, Col. Dan Goldfus. He also visited soldiers wounded in Wednesday’s Hezbollah missile attack, meeting the soldiers at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa together with Netanyahu, and sent condolences to the families of the two soldiers killed.
Referring to the recent escalation with the Shi’ite terrorist group, Ya’alon said, “It’s totally clear that this incident is tied to the Iranian strategy to challenge us, whether from Lebanon, the Golan Heights, or if they can, from the Gaza Strip and other arenas. We, of course, will not allow this, not the harming of soldiers or civilians. We act in accordance with that.
The minister said the Northern Command is prepared for every possibility, even assuming that the current escalation is over.
“We are ready and alert on the Lebanese border, on the border on the Golan Heights, and every other place,” he said.
Netanyahu said Israel is continuously coming under attacks organized by the Islamic Republic.
“Iran is trying to uproot us from here, but they will not succeed,” he said. “We put down roots here and will continue to do so, and will continue to make the country bloom and create new life.”
Ya’alon encouraged Israelis to visit the Golan and Mount Hermon over the weekend and maintain a normal routine.
He also spoke with his Spanish counterpart on Friday following the death of a Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper on Wednesday in IDF return fire launched in response to the Hezbollah missile strike.
He sent condolences to Defense Minister Pedro Morenes, and to the peacekeeper’s family. Israel is investigating the incident and will cooperate with UNIFIL and Spanish officers, Ya’alon said, adding that the IDF responded to the Hezbollah attack, and that the peacekeeper’s post was situated between Hezbollah operatives and Israel.
“I highly appreciate the presence of Spanish soldiers in the territory as part of the UNIFIL force and the readiness of the government in Spain to be a partner to the effort to bring stability to the area,” Ya’alon said.
Netanyahu also spoke with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and expressed his regret over the incident. The two agreed on the mechanism of a joint inquiry to look into the incident that will include IDF and UNIFIL officials, as well as representatives from both Israel and Spain’s defense ministries.