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June 3, 2018 10:24 am

Riding High in Polls at Home, Israeli PM Netanyahu Set to Talk Iran During Three-Nation European Swing

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Menahem Kahana / Pool via Reuters / File.

Iran will be at the top of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s agenda this week during a three-nation swing through Western Europe.

“Tomorrow I will leave for Europe to meet with three main leaders: Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday. “While I will discuss with them developments in the region, the emphasis will be on Iran, first of all on continuing to block Iran’s nuclear program.”

“Of course,” he added, “I will reiterate an unchanging truth: Israel will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons.”

“The second thing,” Netanyahu went on to say, “is the blocking of Iran’s plans for expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East, especially in Syria. I will also insist on a basic principle: Israel retains — and will continue to retain — freedom of action against the establishment of an Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria.”

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Netanyahu’s comments followed reports in the past few days that Iran-backed forces were preparing to withdraw from southern Syria.

Meanwhile, the recent focus on security — with flare-ups in both the north and south — appears to have bolstered support for Netanyahu, who has been dogged by corruption scandals, among the Israeli public.

A Walla poll, the results of which were published on Sunday, found that if Knesset elections were held now, Netanyahu’s Likud Party would receive 34 seats, more than double its closest competitor, Yesh Atid, which would get 16 seats.

The next three largest factions in the 120-seat Israeli legislature would be the Joint List (12 seats), HaBayit HaYehudi (11 seats), and Zionist Union (10 seats).

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