PM: 'Iran is Close to that Red Line; it Must Not Cross'
In his address to the AIPAC 2013 conference Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had some advice for his American listeners: “Don't adopt Israel's system of government.” Netanyahu said that he would have liked to be at the conference, instead of speaking to the audience via video hookup, but “I am stuck here in Israel working on the fun job of putting together a coalition. You in the U.S. think you have problem with your politics, but believe me this is harder,” Netanyahu said.
Still, in the midst of the rancorous coalition negotiations, Netanyahu found time to address the thousands of delegates to the AIPAC conference, telling them that he would form a government “in the next few days. And the first thing my new government will do is welcome President Obama, and thank him for his support of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Despite the close relationship with the U.S., Israel had a somewhat different view of some of the regional issues, especially Iran - one of the three topics Netanyahu planned to discuss with Obama when he arrives for a visit in Israel later this month. The other topics, he said, included the peace process, and the growing instability in Syria.
Speaking before Netanyahu at the conference, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden praised the sanctions undertaken by many Western countries against Iran, saying that they had done much damage to the Iranian economy. “Sanctions have hurt Iran, this is true,” Netanyahu said. But it still hasn't stopped Iran from its attempts to achieve nuclear weapons, and most likely wouldn't. “Iran has made it clear that it plans to continue to defy the international community. It is running out the clock, buying time to complete its development,” the Prime Minister said.
Iran “has not crossed the red line I pointed out at the United Nations, but it is getting very close,” Netanyahu said. “We cannot allow Iran to cross that red line. We have to stop its nuclear enrichment program before it's too late.”
And declarations and penalization of Iran's economy wouldn't do the job. “Words and sanction will not stop Iran,” Netanyahu said. “They must be coupled with a clear military threat. As President Obama says – Israel must be able to defend itself,” and Israel will never let itself be in a situation where it faced annihilation. “We will never let that happen again. We have our place under the sun, and we shall defend it.” Quoting British World War II leader Winston Churchill, Netanyahu said that “the rebirth of Israel is one of the greatest events in history. We never lose sight of that perspective.”
Syria was a major security issue for Israel as well. “Over the last two years over 70,000 Syrians have been killed,” Netanyahu said, pointing out the enormity of the humanitarian crisis. “But Syria could soon become a strategic crisis,” the Prime Minister said. “It is a poor country but it has chemical weapons, and some of the most dangerous weapons in the world. And as Syria falls the danger of these weapons falling into terrorists' hands grows.” Hizbullah and other terror groups, "like leeches feeding off a live body," were striving to get control of Syria's weapons, even before Bashar Assad falls. Israel could not allow this to happen either, Netanyahu said, and would take appropriate steps to prevent it. “And I know President Obama fully appreciates Israel's need to defend itself.”
Regarding the peace process, Netanyahu said, to the applause of the audience, that “Israel is prepared for a meaningful compromise. But I will never compromise on Israel's security.” That means that the peace process, whatever its results, “must end our conflict for once and for all.”
In addition, he said, an agreement with the PA must provide “a durable and defensible peace
A peace you cannot defend will not last five minutes. And it must be verifiable – that our neighbors keep to their commitments, and educate their children for peace.” Changing the education of the next generation of Arab youth, Netanyahu said, “is very important for Israel. With President Obama we shall work for peace,” Netanyahu declared.
In addition, the Prime Minister said, Netanyahu said he looked forward to “showing President Obama another side of Israel, a technological side” that provides much benefit for the entire world, through its breakthroughs in medical, environmental, agricultural, and other technologies. Israel, Netanyahu added, “is an oasis of liberty and progress,” and he was excited to be showing Obama what was right with Israel.