Iran should face more intense pressure during international negotiations — and not be given further respite from sanctions — to force it to completely dismantle its nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
“You know how you get that agreement from Iran? Not by relieving pressure but by adding pressure,” Netanyahu said in a speech to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has advocated imposing new economic sanctions on Iran during international nuclear negotiations. Sanctions legislation failed last month after President Obama said it would undermine the nuclear talks with Tehran and threatened to veto it.
Netanyahu spent more than half of his annual AIPAC address on Iran, which he said was on the wrong side of the world’s “moral divide” and not to be trusted.
He suggested that the administration and its negotiating partners — the P5+1 group including Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — had been duped by Iran’s new government, including “its smiling president and its smooth-talking foreign minister.”
“But if you listen to their words, their soothing words,” he said, “they don’t square with Iran’s aggressive actions.” Iranian long-range missiles, he said, “can strike, right now or very soon, the Eastern Seaboard of the United States — Washington — and very soon after that, everywhere else in the United States.”
In particular, Netanyahu warned against any long-term deal that would allow Iran to retain the ability to enrich uranium. Officials from the United States and their negotiating partners have indicated that enrichment — kept to a low level that does not permit weapons development — is likely to be part of a final agreement that they say would prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon.
“We must get rid of Iran’s centrifuges and its stockpiles of enriched uranium,” Netanyahu said to applause.
Despite Israel’s differences with the administration, Netanyahu praised Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry for their commitment to Israeli security and the energy that Kerry, in particular, has devoted to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
“You know, New York and Tel Aviv, they’re the cities that never sleep,” Netanyahu said. “John Kerry is definitely the secretary of state who never sleeps. And I’ve got the bags under my eyes to prove it,” he said, referring to long, late-night negotiating sessions since Kerry began his efforts last summer.
Stating long-held positions, Netanyahu said that he is ready to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians. But “just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state,” he said.
Official Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been a sticking point in the negotiations, along with security arrangements. The United States has suggested a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops along the eastern side of the West Bank and the introduction of an international peacekeeping force.
But “it may take decades for this formal acceptance of Israel to filter down through all layers of Palestinian society,” Netanyahu said. In the meantime, he said, “the only force that can be relied on to defend the peace and defend Israel is the force defending its own home — the Israeli army.”
“I’m going to reveal to you a secret,” he said. “This position may not win me universal praise.”
Beyond Iran, Netanyahu reserved his harshest criticism for the so-called BDS movement — boycott, divestiture and sanctions — which seeks to impose economic punishment on Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians and activities in the occupied West Bank.
Kerry has warned that the growing power of the movement, in Europe and elsewhere, is a threat to which Israel should pay attention as it plans its negotiating strategy with the Palestinians.
The movement, Netanyahu said, is a form of modern anti-Semitism that has enlisted “gullible fellow travelers.” It will ultimately fail, he said, because other countries and major technology companies are eager to invest in Israel and “benefit from Israel’s unique ingenuity, dynamism and innovation.”