Netanyahu at J'lem Conference
Netanyahu at J'lem ConferenceIsrael news photo

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who delivered the closing address at the Seventh Jerusalem Conference, began his speech by mentioning the fact that the hotel in which the conference is being held – the Hyatt Regency – is where Minister Rechavam Ze'evi was assassinated in 2001. Netanyahu said that Ze'evi's murderer is languishing in an Israeli jail “and as long as I am Prime Minister, he will stay there.”

This was a reference to PFLP head Ahmed Sa'adat, whom Hamas wanted released from jail as part of the deal for freeing abducted soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit. 

“The leaders of the world now understand that Iran is arming itself with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “Just a year ago there was a debate – is Iran seeking nuclear energy or nuclear weapons? This debate is now over.”

“The people of Iran hate this regime. All they want is liberty from this brutal dictatorship. The threat to the Middle East is clear. Everything is now out in the open. Everything is clear. Now the question is what is the international community doing vis-a-vis this challenge?”

Quoting Hillel the Elder

“They are talking about sanctions now," Netanyahu continued. "I spoke about sanctions. I just met with the foreign minister of Austria. I quoted what our sage Hillel the Elder said 2,000 years ago: 'If not now – when?' If we do not impose severe sanctions on Iran now, when will we impose them? And what kind of sanctions will they be? Light ones? If the sanctions have no bite what kind of influence will they have? The hour is late. We need severe sanctions now.”

“The sanctions have to include energy: a ban on exporting oil and importing gasoline, the Iranian economy will grind to a halt. Light sanctions will be useless. Now is the time for severe sanctions. I hope that the international community will be able to rise to the occasion and understand the ramifications of this historical moment.”  

“Leaders have to make difficult decisions. Otherwise they shouldn't be leaders. In my first term as Prime Minister I spoke before both houses of Congress and said that the Iranian threat was the foremost threat to the world. Many eyebrows were raised. Now they are no longer raised. Now they understand the threat. Let us see what they do about it.”

Professors, pundits, politicians

Netanyahu's speech was the final one in the three-day conference, which was held in a slightly more upbeat mood than most such gatherings in recent years. Recent political developments in the United States and other countries, as well as recent statements by US officials, caused some speakers to estimate that the US and the international community are more serious now about tackling the Iranian threat than they were last year.

The conference included addresses by professors, pundits and politicians on subjects ranging from "'Lawfare': Goldstone, the UN and NGOs” through “Reclaiming Israel’s Narrative, Sovereignty and Pride” to “ The Future of U.S.-Israel Relations.”