Netanyahu on U.S.-Iran talks: I won't tell Trump not to meet Rouhani

Netanyahu said more pressure is needed now on Iran. He said he preferred the approach of Trump on Iran to his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran at the weekly cabinet meeting (photo credit: OHAD TZVEIGENBERG‏)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran at the weekly cabinet meeting
(photo credit: OHAD TZVEIGENBERG‏)
LONDON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would not object to US President Donald Trump meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York later this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Netanyahu’s remarks on Thursday followed comments made as he was boarding his plane – that this was not the time for talking to Iran – being interpreted as criticism of the president.
“Right now, the time is to apply pressure,” he said. “Does that mean that after a month or two months of pressure, you can’t do it? I don’t rule it out, and I certainly don’t decide for the president of the United States when to meet and whom to meet with.”
Netanyahu said he preferred the approach of Trump on Iran to his predecessor, president Barack Obama.
“I don’t know when such a meeting would be, but if it happened, Trump would be tougher and more clear-thinking than [the US] was before,” he explained. “His basis for a meeting would be on what we agree: that the deal was terrible, that the deal didn’t deal with key issues.”
Netanyahu complained that Iran has not responded to the 12 steps presented by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which he said were also requests by Israel.
While Netanyahu went out of his way to defend the policies of Trump on Iran, he was openly critical of French President Emmanuel Macron, who invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Biarritz for G7 meetings last month – the same day that Israel was attacked by Iranian proxies.
Netanyahu said he told Macron that his invite of Zarif was improper, and that Macron had called him afterward to explain the move. “I told him. It was so unfitting that day that he called me.”
Iran dominated meetings Netanyahu had in London on Thursday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Johnson told the media ahead of his meeting with Netanyahu that he would discuss the two-state solution with him, and that Britain still supported two states. Netanyahu said he would also like to discuss the matter, but a diplomatic official who attended the meeting said the issue was not raised.
“I want to say that you’ve been a great friend of the Jewish people and Israel,” Netanyahu said of Johnson. “I applaud your staunch stance against antisemitism and your support for Israel’s security. Our relations are at an all-time high: economically, trade, technology, defense cooperation. These are all great things. It’s not that we lack challenges. We have the challenge of Iran’s aggression and terrorism, and I’d like to talk to you about how we can work together to counter these things for the benefit of peace.”
Netanyahu brought Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin and head of the IDF Operations Directorate Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva with him to the meetings with the British and American defense secretaries.
US Vice President Mike Pence was also in town, and met with Johnson right after Netanyahu. The prime minister said he did not need to meet with Pence because he spoke to him at length days earlier.
Both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters demonstrated outside 10 Downing Street during Netanyahu’s meeting with Johnson.