JERUSALEM – Speaking in Jerusalem before the annual gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefed Jewish leaders on the three main threats Israel must deal with in the coming weeks and months: the Iranian threat, instability in Syria, and peace talks with the Palestinians.
“Iran’s nuclear weapons program continues unabated,” Netanyahu said. “It’s focused on enrichment. If they can continue and complete the highly enriched uranium, they’ll have enough to [eventually] produce a nuclear bomb.
“I drew a line at the UN the last time I was there. They haven’t crossed that line, but what they’re doing is shortening the time that it will take them to cross that line. And the way they’re shortening that time is by putting in new, faster centrifuges that cut the time by one third.”
Netanyahu said, “This has to be stopped for the interest of peace and security, for the interest of the entire world. How do you stop it? You have to put greater pressure on them. You have to upgrade the sanctions. And they have to know that if the sanctions and diplomacy fails, they will face an incredible military threat. That’s essential. Nothing else will do the job. And it’s getting closer.”
Netanyahu said that Syria is “not a developed country. And it certainly suffered tremendous tragedies in the last two years with great human cost. But this undeveloped country has the world’s most developed weapons. It has stockpiles of chemical weapons, and it has other strategic weapons – weapons that can change the balance of power in the Middle East. I’ve said [it] before and I’ll say it again: We will not sit idly by and let those weapons fall into the hands of terrorists.”
Netanyahu had much to say about the stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians and President Obama’s planned March visit to Israel. “The third challenge is to advance a solid, secure peace with the Palestinians. I believe that the framework for this peace is what I outlined in my speech at Bar-Ilan University: two states for two peoples [and] a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.
“I think to reach this solution we have to negotiate in good faith. [This] means you don’t place preconditions. In the last four years the Palestinians have, regrettably, placed preconditions time after time. My hope is that they leave these preconditions aside and get to the negotiating table so we don’t waste another four years.”
Netanyahu said that these three great challenges would be some of the main subjects that he intends to raise with President Obama during the president’s trip to Israel. “I welcome him,” Netanyahu said. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity to reaffirm the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States. We have a great alliance. We’ve worked together very closely, closer than perhaps meets the eye…
“We worked together on security, diplomacy and intelligence. The United States has assisted us in Iron Dome; we’ve assisted the United States on some delicate matters. That relationship is one of mutual values, mutual benefit. When you look at the Middle East, when you look at this area and see the great power of freedom of the United States, you see the swirling sands of the Middle East. And there is one solid, reliable ally of the United States: the state of Israel. I think that’s become more apparent than ever.”Steve K. Walz
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