Daily Israel Report

Netanyahu Continues "Divest Iran" Campaign

Ex-PM Netanyahu has spoken with Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger and New England state representatives, asking that state employees' pension funds withdraw their investments from companies active in Iran.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 1/29/2007, 8:30 AM / Last Update: 1/29/2007, 10:02 AM

Netanyahu spoke by phone with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, whose state’s Public Employees Retirement System manages the world's largest pension plan, worth $225 billion. Israel's former Prime Minister is asking that the fund, and others in the U.S. and elsewhere, withdraw their investments from companies dealing with Iran.

Ophir Akunis, Netanyahu's press spokesman, told Arutz-7 that Schwarzenegger said he would look into the matter of divestment from Iran.

Netanyahu met last week with Massachusetts Treasurer Timothy Cahill and with representatives from several other New England states, including Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Pension and investment funds in these states are invested in companies involved in Iranian projects to the tune of over one billion dollars.

Cahill accepted Netanyahu's evaluation that Iran is a great threat to the United States and the entire world, Netanyahu reported, and said he would "seriously check" the promotion of state legislation to force pension funds to withdraw their investments from companies active in Iran.

Iran is very vulnerable economically, Netanyahu has frequently explained, and this can be used to neutralize the voices calling for Israel's destruction: "Unemployment in Iran is more than 10% and poverty is over 40%. Without oil, Iran's economy returns to one based on textiles and agriculture - and collapses. The oil industry in Iran is outdated and requires tremendous infrastructure investments - currently provided by international companies. The withdrawal of these investments will create pressure on the companies to stop their involvement in Iran, leading to a collapse of the Iranian economy and real pressure for a change of regime."

Netanyahu served as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999. Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he was Foreign Minister for three months until February 2003, at which time he served as Finance Minister until he resigned just before the Disengagement in August 2005. The Likud party which he heads is currently running way ahead of both Labor and Kadima in the polls, making Netanyahu the favorite to be Israel's next Prime Minister.

During last week's Herzliya Conference, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senator John McCain all expressed support of pension fund divestment from Iran. They and others note that sanctions against Libya essentially ended its support for terrorism, and that divestment from South Africa toppled the apartheid regime.

Netanyahu also met with Canadian and British lawmakers on this topic during his trip that is to end this evening (Monday). He is similarly canvassing support for his initiative to have Iranian President Ahmadinejad tried in The Hague for inciting genocide.