Netanyahu to Britain: Iran must stop calling for destruction of Israel

PM's remarks come in media blitz with European press on Iran.

Netanyahu interviewed by foreign press 370 (photo credit: GPO- Amos Ben Gershom)
Netanyahu interviewed by foreign press 370
(photo credit: GPO- Amos Ben Gershom)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged Britain on Thursday to condition its restoration of full diplomatic ties with Tehran on Iran ending its calls for the destruction of Israel.
Netanyahu’s comments to the Financial Times came during a whirlwind of six interviews Thursday morning with key media outlets in Britain, France and Germany.
Those three countries, along with the US, Russia and China, are part of the “P5+1” that will begin negotiating with Iran in Geneva on Tuesday.
“Iran is calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state and of a member state of the UN,” Netanyahu said. “It seems sensible that Britain would say, ‘Before we reestablish diplomatic relations, abandon this.’” Britain and Iran announced interim steps this week aimed at reopening their respective embassies, closed since 2011 when the British Embassy compound in Tehran was overrun by rioters.
Netanyahu is talking to his European counterparts in the run-up to the Geneva talks, as are National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz.
At the same time, Netanyahu has been on a European media blitz which diplomatic sources say is just one brick in a ratcheted-up campaign prior to the start of the talks. Last week, the prime minister similarly saturated the US media market with some eight high-profile interviews.
One government official said that Netanyahu felt the need to speak to the European media, and not just European leaders, because the European public has also been the target of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive.
Netanyahu said of Rouhani’s current diplomatic efforts: “This regime is smiling, and coming and saying, ‘you know what, let me keep enrichment. I’ll make some tactical cosmetic concessions, you reduce the sanctions.’” But Netanyahu warned that if the sanctions are relieved, the whole sanctions regime will collapse.
“So they’ll get everything, and we – the collective we – will get nothing. If it falls on me to say something that everybody understands, I’ll say it. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Netanyahu said he expects Europe to “do the right thing” and not fall into an Iranian “trap.” His message to the European journalists was similar to his message in the US.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, and a bad deal would be a partial agreement which lifts sanctions off Iran and leaves them with the ability to enrich uranium or to continue work on their heavy water plutonium, which is what is needed to produce nuclear weapons,” he told the Financial Times.
In addition to the Financial Times, Netanyahu interviewed with France’s Le Monde and Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, as well as with the British Sky News, France 24 and Germany’s ARD television networks. The interview with France 24 and Sky News will be broadcast also by their Arabic networks.
“At this juncture, we have to say things clearly, and the clear thing is this: Iran should not have centrifuges; it should not have plutonium plants. These things should be completely dismantled, as was stipulated by the Security Council resolutions, as was demanded by the P5+1,” he said.
While the message was similar to the one he communicated in the US, he did frame it around distinctly European points of reference.
For example, Netanyahu referred to a picture in his office of Winston Churchill, and recalled what Churchill said about arming the Nazis.
“He said don’t let the Nazis arm themselves,” Netanyahu said. “Don’t let an implacable, radical regime have awesome power. And he was right, and there is a lesson to be learned here.”
The lesson, he added, was that a regime with unlimited ambitions and aggression like Iran should not have the ability to enrich uranium.
“Be tough, be strong, be consistent,” he urged the Europeans.
Netanyahu stressed in the interviews that he was not opposed to negotiations, nor did he set a deadline for the talks, saying a “good deal” was important, regardless of whether it took one month more or less to reach.
“The question of time is less important than substance,” he said. “Diplomacy has to produce an outcome.”
Asked what price Israel might have to pay for a diplomatic solution, and whether the price might be “making peace with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said that Israeli- Palestinian peace has nothing to do with the Iranian question.
“Europe should stop looking for excuses why it does not take action against Iran,” he said. “If you want to be soft, be soft.
Don’t give excuses [for the softness] because of a lack of progress on the Israeli- Palestinian front.”
Netanyahu said Israel wanted to see progress on the Palestinian track for its own sake, and not because of any linkage to Iran.
Meanwhile, an exiled Iranian opposition group said Thursday it had information about what it said was a center for nuclear weaponization research in Tehran that the government was moving in order to avoid detection ahead of negotiations with world powers.
The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002. But analysts say the council has a mixed track record and a clear political agenda.
An accusation it made in July about a secret underground nuclear site under construction in Iran drew a cautious international response, while the United States expressed skepticism about another claim in 2010.
The Paris-based NCRI, citing information from sources inside Iran, said a nuclear weaponization research and planning center it called SPND was being moved to a large, secure site in a Defense Ministry complex in Tehran about 1.5 km. away from its former location.
It said the center employed about 100 researchers, engineers and experts and conducted small-scale experiments with radioactive material.
“There is a link between this transfer and the date of Geneva [talks] because the regime needed to avoid the risk of visits by [UN nuclear] inspectors,” Mehdi Abrichamtchi, who compiled the NCRI report, said.
Reuters contributed to this report.