Photo Credit: Screenshot
PM Benjamin Netanyahu with CNN’s Jake Trapper, January 31, 2023.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday that Israel has been “taking action against certain weapons development” in Iran. But he, however, refused to confirm or deny whether Israel was behind last weekend’s drone attacks on a military plant in Isfahan.

“I never talk about specific operations,” he said, “and every time some explosion takes place in the Middle East, Israel is blamed or given responsibility – sometimes we are sometimes we’re not.”


Netanyahu told Tapper about: “If you have rogue regimes that are (trying to get) nuclear weapons, you can sign 100 agreements with them, it doesn’t help,” and added: “I think the only way that you can stop or abstain from getting nuclear weapons is a combination of crippling economic sanctions, but the most important thing, is a credible military threat.”

On internal Israeli politics, Trapper said Netanyahu’s governing coalition relies on the support of several nationalist political figures who used to be on the fringes of Israeli politics.

Netanyahu dismissed “concerns about the inflammatory rhetoric and actions of these members,” saying: “I’ve got my two hands on the wheel.”

Trapper pressed him on reports that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich once described himself as a “fascist homophobe,” and Netanyahu answered: “Well, a lot of people say a lot of things when they’re not in power. They sort of temper themselves when they get into power. And that’s certainly the case here.”

Netanyahu rejected criticism of his government’s push for judicial reforms, which would give the Knesset the power to overturn supreme court rulings, appoint judges, and “remove from ministries legal advisers whose legal advice is binding.” It was a cartoon version of Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s reform, but the way Trapper listed having elected officials appoint judges as controversial suggested someone at CNN wasn’t up on the way US elected officials appoint judges.

Netanyahu told Tapper he believed the judicial reform would “make democracy stronger.” On the accusations that he was trying to override the judiciary to get himself off his own criminal indictments, Netanyahu said: “That’s false. None of the reforms that we’re talking about… have anything to do with my trial.”

Tapper asked about the Biden administration’s warnings that Jewish settlements in the “occupied West Bank” may be the source of tension, Netanyahu hailed the success of the Abraham Accords that, under Biden’s predecessor, normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries.

“I went around them (the Palestinians), I went directly to the Arab states and forged a new concept of peace… I forged four historic peace agreements, the Abraham Accords, which is twice the number of peace agreements that all my predecessors in 70 years got combined,” he boasted.

Netanyahu said people can get “hung up” on peace negotiations with the PA Arabs, and suggested he had a different approach: “When effectively the Arab-Israeli conflict (comes) to an end, I think we’ll circle back to the Palestinians and get a workable peace with the Palestinians.”

When Trapper asked what concession Israel was ready to grant the PA Arabs, Netanyahu responded: “Well, I’m certainly willing to have them have all the powers that they need to govern themselves. But none of the powers that could threaten (us) and this means that Israel should have the overriding security responsibility.”

Trapper reminded Netanyahu of his vow this week that Israel would “strengthen” settlements in response to the massacre in Jerusalem last Friday, a move that the visiting Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Tuesday. When Trapper asked about US concerns that expanding Israeli settlements on “Palestinian land” could hamper peace prospects, Netanyahu said: “Well, I totally disagree.”


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