Israeli PM Netanyahu Says Relaxing Pressure on Iran Now Would be ‘Historic Mistake’
Speaking to members of Israel’s Knesset at the start of its winter session, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said, “It would be a historic mistake to relax the pressure on Iran now, a moment before the sanctions achieve their goal.”
“There can be no giving in at this time and the pressure must be continued. It must be remembered that it is international pressure which has led to internal change in Iran, which has led the Iranians to any concessions at all and to the negotiating table, and which can bring them to make tangible concessions on their military nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. “I will tell you something that goes against the accepted view – easing the pressure will not strengthen moderate trends in Iran. On the contrary, it will strengthen the uncompromising views of the real ruler of Iran, the Ayatollah Khamenei, and will be seen as a significant victory by him.”
“I think that many in the world understand that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran endanger not only Israel. Iran is continuing, unhindered, to develop inter-continental missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. These missiles can reach all parts of the Middle East, Europe, the US and other parts of the world as well. The entire region, and the peace of the world, would be in great danger. The Iranians openly declare that this is their intention and therefore, Israel will not allow Iran, which champions our destruction, to achieve nuclear weapons,” he said.
Netanyahu cited the ongoing international efforts to remove chemical weapons from the hands of Syrian President Assad’s regime as an example of what, he said, should not be done with Iran: “I would like to ask you what the international reaction would be if Syria were to offer to dismantle only 20% of its chemical weapons and retain the rest? This is exactly what Iran is proposing. Just as it must be ensured that Syria does not lead the international community astray, and completely dismantles its chemical weapons, so too must Iran not be allowed to continue its military nuclear program and retain its ability to break through to nuclear weapons.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres also decried Iran in his own address at the Knesset’s opening.
“Iran is a threat to world peace, it destabilizes the region and threatens Israel,” Peres said. “The world must judge Iran by deeds and not words, even if the words sound sweet to ears used to hearing Ahmadinejad. The deeds must be reliable, transparent, not partial and not delayed.”
“Their outcome must be the end of Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons; Iran must stop building its long range missiles which are built to carry nuclear warheads into the heart of Europe and even the east coast of the United States. These missiles have no peaceful or civilian purpose; they only carry a nuclear threat. The economic sanctions must continue alongside all other credible options,” he said.
“The threat is real. The danger is real. Action must be demanded of Iran. President Obama’s stance is clear, unambiguous and uncompromising, and we should relate to it as such,” Peres said.
“It is not the Iranian people but the Iranian regime which is the threat,” Peres said. “The regime made its intention to destroy Israel clear. The regime supports Hezbollah, Hamas and the blood-soaked regime in Syria. The regime of the Ayatollah’s is a threat to Israel but a danger to the entire world.”
Peres welcomed the renewal of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and stressed the importance of peace. “As Jews we are obligated to seek peace and not wait for miracles to bring it about. Peace with Egypt, peace with Jordan, negotiations with the Palestinians; these are not only a strategic, security and economic interest but also a moral call enshrined in our heritage,” he said.
“I welcome whole hardheartedly the renewal of talks with the Palestinians. The talks are taking place away from the spotlight and this allows for serious negotiations to bring the two-state solution to fruition. Negotiation is not easy. It starts with a lack of trust between the sides. It takes place when both sides see the other as foe, not friend. Peace requires compromise and this can be painful and difficult – negotiations aren’t born out of trust, they create trust. We shouldn’t take blind risks but neither should we miss opportunities because of skepticism and cynicism. I am aware of the dangers. I know the difficulties. In my role today I will continue to fulfill my state duties to support the peace process,” Peres said.