Netanyahu at the conference
Netanyahu at the conferenceAmos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday evening, at the Hartog National Security Conference at the Setai Hotel in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, was interviewed by Prof. Walter Russell Mead, Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College, and the ‘Global View’ Columnist at The Wall Street Journal.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also participated in the conference.

In response to the question: What would the policy be on Iran, on the assumption that the US administration claims that the 2015 nuclear agreement is completely finished, and in light of reports that Iran has enriched its uranium to 84% just below nuclear level, Prime Minister Netanyahu replied:

"Ask a question. How do you stop a rogue nation from acquiring nuclear weapons? Let's see. I mean, there have been some examples, so we can maybe deduce a rule."

"You had one called Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It was stopped by military force, ours. You had a second one called Syria that tried to develop nuclear weapons. And it was stopped by a military action, ours. There was a third country, Muammar Gaddafi's Libya. It wanted to pursue nuclear weapons and it gave it up due to the threat of a military action, yours. There's a fourth country, North Korea, that sought to develop nuclear weapons, and wasn't challenged. And by the way, it is a signatory to the NPTs and all. It doesn't mean anything. They weren't stopped, because there was no threat of military action. And so they developed this capacity."

"Now we have Iran. Iran seeks to develop it. It was actually stopped for a year, in 2003, when they thought, right after the Gulf War, when they thought that you, America, would take action against them. So they stopped, then converted into a secret program, disguised by various civilian so-called research organizations. But they continued. And they've been stopped, or rather slowed down by various actions that we took and some sanctions that were applied. The sanctions came about because the Americans were saying, 'This crazy guy in Jerusalem is going to bomb them unless we do something.' So that's how Iran came to the table, but then they left the cash on the table, and did a lousy agreement."

"The only thing that has credibly stopped rogue nations from developing nuclear weapons is a credible military threat or a credible military action. You can couple that with crippling economic sanctions, but that's not a sufficient condition. A necessary condition, and an often sufficient condition, is credible military action. The longer you wait, the harder that becomes. We've waited very long."

"I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That is not merely an Israeli interest; it's an American interest; it's in the interest of the entire world."

Israel bombed Iraq's unfinished Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 and destroyed Syria's nuclear reactor in 2007.

Regarding Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

"If we expand the circle of peace to Saudi Arabia, then I think we effectively end the Arab-Israeli conflict, which means we work our way not inside out, solve the Palestinian problem.

I believe that pursuing a peace that is based on common interests, of using Israeli power – military, intelligence, technological and economic – to buttress local, that is, peace agreements and normalization agreements with our neighbors can help achieve two things. One, it can expand the circle of peace. Second, it can serve as a bulwark against Iran.

I think we've, we can have a quantum leap if the Saudi leadership decides that it wants to be formally part of this. Informally, they're part of this."

Also attending the conference were MK Simcha Rothman, US senators, Tikvah Fund Chairman of the Board Elliott Abrams and American business people and academics in the economic and security fields.