JERUSALEM – At a Monday briefing to visiting members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its active support of the Syrian government and Hamas terrorism to ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the growing anti-Israel boycott movement. Netanyahu expects to raise these topics during his March 3 White House meeting with President Obama.
“What ought to be the goal of these negotiations [with Iran]? It’s not merely to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons…. It’s to prevent Iran from having the capability of manufacturing nuclear weapons. That is different,” Netanyahu said. “If Iran perches itself as a threshold state in which it has all the elements of a nuclear weapon in place, they’ll just have to do one little twist of the knob to get final enrichment of fissile material that is the core of a nuclear weapon. Then all they’ll have to do is take these components from one side of a room and another side of a room, put them together and in a very short time – days or weeks or perhaps even hours – they’d have a nuclear weapon….”
On Iran’s intervention in Syria and its broad support of regional terrorism, Netanyahu said, “This regime continues to foster terrorism around the world. It sends the most deadly weapons to Hizbullah [and] to Hamas, weapons that are fired on our civilians. This regime participates in the slaughter, the massive slaughter, the unending slaughter in Syria…. There is no Assad regime without Iran….”
Netanyahu continued, “And Iran has not changed one iota its call to annihilate the Jewish state….”
Netanyahu also spoke about the status of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
He said, “We’re trying to make peace with those Palestinians who at least have not engaged in terror. We say to them that if you want to achieve a real peace, then that peace has to be based on a real reconciliation with the Jewish state of Israel. We shall soon see if we have a partner in [PA President Mahmoud Abbas], and I think if there is a partner there, then there is a way to move this process forward.
“And for it to move forward, and for it to succeed ultimately, then it must address first the root cause of the conflict. The root cause of the conflict is not the settlements, it’s not the territories. This conflict predated it by at least half a century. The root cause of this conflict is the refusal to accept the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in any boundaries. That remains a simple truth….
“Now, friends, you can take all the settlements and you can uproot them and the conflict will continue. You can have Israel go back to the ’67 lines and the conflict will continue. How do we know that? Because we tried it. That’s exactly what we did in Gaza. We went back to the ’67 lines, we uprooted at terrible human cost and financial costs the 10,000 Israelis who were there. Did we get peace? What we got is a forward outpost of Iran from which they’ve so far fired about 12,000 rockets on our heads….”
Articulating Israel’s aspirations, the Israeli leader said, “We hope that there will be a cultural change. We hope that the fruits of peace will take root in the soil. We hope that the new generation of Palestinians will embrace a different path. We hope, but we can’t base the peace on hope alone. We must base it also on security…. We must ensure solid security arrangements that protect the peace and protect Israel in case the peace unravels.”