Iran is taking steps that are bringing it closer to the “red line” in its nuclear program that Israel cannot tolerate, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Monday.
Speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Netanyahu said, “The three external challenges that we face begin with Iran. I spoke about Iran’s plan to develop nuclear weapons. Its nuclear weapons program continues unabated. It’s focused on enrichment because if they can continue and complete the enrichment of high enriched uranium, then they’ll have enough to produce enough material to produce a nuclear bomb.
“I drew a line at the UN, last time I was there,” he added. “They haven’t crossed that line, but what they’re doing is to shorten the time that it will take them to cross that line. And the way they’re shortening that time is by putting in new, faster centrifuges that cut the time by one third, so that Iran is putting itself in a position to cross the red line and have enough material to produce one nuclear bomb’s worth of highly enriched uranium. This has to be stopped, for the interest of peace and security, for the interest of the entire world.”
Netanyahu said, “How do you stop it? Well, you have to put greater pressure on them. You have to upgrade the sanctions. And they have to know that if the sanctions and diplomacy fails, they will face incredible military threat. That’s essential. Nothing else will do the job. And it’s getting closer.
“The second challenge we face is in Syria. Syria is not one of the great economies of the world. It’s not a developed country. And it certainly suffered tremendous tragedies in the last two years with great human cost. But this undeveloped country has the world’s most developed weapons there. It has stockpiles of chemical weapons, and it has other strategic weapons – weapons that can change the balance of power in the Middle East. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: we will not sit idly by and let those weapons fall in the hands of terrorists.”
Netanyahu then referred to the peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and said that the framework for talks should be his Bar Ilan speech in 2009. He also called on PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations without setting preconditions.
“And we have a third challenge, which is to advance a solid secure peace with the Palestinians,” he said. “I believe that the framework for this peace is what I outlined in my speech in Bar Ilan University: two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. I think to reach this solution we have to negotiate in good faith. Negotiating in good faith means you don’t place preconditions.
“In the last four years,” said Netanyahu, “the Palestinians have regrettably have placed preconditions time after time, precondition after precondition. My hope is that they leave these preconditions aside and get to the negotiating table so we don’t waste another four years.”
He added, “These three great challenges, Iran, Syria and the pursuit of peace, are three of the main subjects that I intent to take up with President Obama when he comes here to visit Israel. I welcome him, I think this is a wonderful opportunity to reaffirm the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States. We have a great alliance. This is an opportunity to strengthen this alliance. I look forward to welcoming President Obama here in Jerusalem, here in Israel.
“We’ve worked together very closely, closer than perhaps meets the eye and that people know here except a few people who are in this hall. We worked together on security; we worked together on diplomacy; we worked together on intelligence. The United States has assisted us in Iron Dome; we’ve assisted the United States in some delicate matters. But that relationship is one of mutual values, mutual benefit, and when you look at the Middle East, when you look at this area and see the great power of freedom of the United States, looking at this area you see the swirling sands of the Middle East and there is one solid, reliable ally of the United States, and that is the State of Israel. I think that’s become more apparent than ever, and it also must be apparent to you that when we look around the world we see one great friend, one great ally – the United States of America.”