Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Netanyahu: Israel retains right to defend itself against Iran

From Ynet News, 19/5/09, by Yitzhak Benhorin:

Although Obama refused to set deadlines for diplomacy with Tehran, Netanyahu says the two agreed in principle that Iran must not be allowed to obtain military nuclear capability. As for the two-state solution? 'First we must see if we're talking about a Hamas state,' says PM

WASHINGTON – "Israel has the right to defend itself," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday evening to reporters following his meeting with US President Barack Obama earlier in the day.

Netanyahu said that the US president "understands" that Iran must not be allowed to obtain military nuclear capability.

"There is no green light or red light. There is a principle we agreed on. The important thing said is that there is a commitment to an outcome where Iran does not develop military nuclear power. (President Obama) expressed that very clearly," the prime minister said.

Netanyahu failed to persuade the US president to set a timetable for the diplomatic efforts with Tehran.

Obama said he does not see the need for any "artificial" deadline for the talks with the Islamic Republic. He said however that Washington was interested in seeing progress on this front by the end of the year.

The US president said he expects a positive response from his diplomatic outreach to Iran on stopping its nuclear program by the end of the year. He said the United States wanted to bring Iran into the world community but declared "we're not going to have talks forever." Obama said he was not closing off a "range of steps" against Iran, including sanctions, if it continues its nuclear program.

Netanyahu acknowledged the importance of the meeting with the US president, which lasted for over four hours – an hour and 45 minutes of it a private discussion between the two leaders. The prime minister characterized the meeting as positive and amicable, and said both leaders believed they could work with one another. "He expressed a deep commitment to Israeli-US ties, and a commitment to Israel's security," Netanyahu said.

On the Palestinian track he added that in addition to demanding "concrete moves on Israel's part," Obama recognizes that the Arab world most also do the same towards Israel.

Netanyahu said that he told the US president the Palestinian Authority could have control over everything save for an army of its own or the ability to bring in weaponry. "If there is an understanding about the fundamentals, the other problems will be solved," he said.

The prime minister said he was confident in the steadfastness of the bilateral relations between Israel and the United States.

He also discussed the American demand that Israel freeze all construction in the settlements, saying such a move "would need to be realized as part of the commitments made by both sides. Israel went beyond (just freezing construction) in the Gaza Strip by dismantling settlements, and instead of dismantling terrorism, (the Palestinians) built a terror infrastructure in Gaza."
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