Bennett In Washington: Don't Ease Up on Iran
Economics Minister and Jewish Home/Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington Thursday as part of his efforts in a special US trip to convince American decision makers not to make a bad deal on Iran's nuclear program.
US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly made recent statements to US senators to "stop listening to the Israelis" partially out of fear that Bennett will pull apart the White House campaign to ease sanctions on Iran and promote the ongoing Geneva talks.
In his speech, Bennett said no country wants a deal with Iran that would end its nuclear weapons program more than Israel, and added that "if Iran achieves a nuclear weapon we will be their first target, but make no mistake, we will not be their last target."
According to Bennett, Iran already has missiles capable of reaching Rome and Madrid, and putting a nuclear suitcase bomb in New York wouldn't be so hard for them either.
He stressed that Israel opposes any deal that does not dismantle Iran's nuclear program.
Sanctions have made a great impact, said Bennett, and they must continue until Iran is forced to choose between having a nuclear weapon or having an economy.
"We're two seconds from achieving our goal of dismantling Iran's nuclear program, now is not the time to ease up," said Bennett.
He reiterated earlier statements that Israel will never outsource its security, noting that in 1981 the IAF bombed Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor in Iraq despite world opposition, and according to foreign sources, it did the same with a Syrian reactor in 2007.
"Twice we saved the world from a nuclear weapon" he said, because Israel "understands our place in history and our responsibility."
Bennett continued by briefly tracing Jewish history, saying "3,000 years ago King David established the Jewish state in our eternal capital, Jerusalem." Even though tyrants rose to power and sought our destruction over the course of thousands of years, "we survived...strengthening our land and our religion."
During his speech, Bennett presented a coin from Ir David (the City of David) in Jerusalem. He said, "we never gave up. We never will give up. Here in my hand I hold a 2,000 year old coin, one of many discovered at Ir David just outside of the walls of the old city in Jerusalem. Inscribed on it are the words 'the freedom of Zion.' It took time but but in the end, today we are again in our home."
Bennett said he brought the coin to show to those who claim the Jewish people don't have a historic, national or religious connection to their land. "I'm showing this coin so that people who continue to call and act for our destruction will understand that they will never succeed. We are here to stay."
He said the Jewish people survives in large part because "we don't give up on our past. We are connected to it...passing it from generation to generation."
Bennett then addressed the "Arab spring" which has engulfed the Arab world in unrest and violence, calling it a storm that "just started, and could last 10, 20 or maybe even 50 years. It's the storm of radical Islam."
In the midst of this storm Bennett called Israel a "lighthouse" with strong foundations such as "a thriving democracy, a strong and growing economy, and the strongest army in the region. It's a place where Jews live together with 1.7 million Arabs who enjoy full equal rights."
Despite Israel's successes, he noted that there are those in the region who have trouble accepting Israel's existence. "Instead of embracing our democracy they fire rockets at us. Instead of teaching their children love they teach them hate."
During his visit to Washington Bennett met with Senator John McCain.