Netanyahu: 'If Israel Doesn't Remove Iranian Threat, No One Will'

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Haaretz

Netanyahu: 'If Israel Doesn't Remove Iranian Threat, No One Will'

by
Haaretz Staff

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem May 25, 2009. Speaking of the US President and their recent meeting, Netanyahu added that he had reached understandings with Obama, among them that the most important goal for both countries is preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear military capability. Netanyahu told Likud members that Israel received a number of key pieces of defense aid from the Americans. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

JERUSALEM - If Israel does not eliminate the Iranian threat, no one will, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

"Israel is not like other countries," Netanyahu told his Likud
faction in a meeting which came one week after his meeting with
President Barack Obama at the White House. "We are faced with security
challenges that no other country faces, and our need to provide a
response to these is critical, and we are answering the call."

"These are not regular times. The danger is hurtling toward us?The
real danger in underestimating the threat," Netanyahu said, addressing
the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. "My job is first and foremost to
ensure the future of the state of Israel ... the leadership's job is to
eliminate the danger. Who will eliminate it? It is us or no one."

"Our relationship with the United States is of great importance,"
Netanyahu said. "Our situation today is different from our situation
between 1996 and 1999. Our priorities must be inline with national
security needs and we must unite in order to deflect the danger. The
Defense Minister and I are working in coordination; he is not
conducting an independent policy."

Netanyahu added that he reached understandings Obama, among them
that the most important goal for both countries is preventing Iran from
attaining a nuclear military capability. Netanyahu told Likud members
that Israel received a number of key pieces of defense aid from the
Americans.

Addressing the differing Israeli and American approaches to the
issue of West Bank settlements, Netanyahu said the issue resembled a
disagreement between good friends.

"The Defense Minister and I are working in coordination; he is not
conducting an independent policy," he said. "During the elections I
said that we are law-abiding and will deal with deal with the illegal
outposts."

Israel's government and the American administration have expressed
divergent views on how they perceive some of the most sensitive issues
of the Middle East conflict.

The State Department said Sunday that the future status of
Jerusalem would be determined through peace negotiations, despite
Netanyahu's declaration last week that the capital would "never again
be partitioned and divided."

"Jerusalem is a final status issue. Israel and the Palestinians
have agreed to resolve its status during negotiations. We will support
their efforts to reach agreements on all final status issues," a State
Department spokesman said when asked to respond to Netanyahu's
proclamation that Jerusalem would always remain under Israeli
sovereignty.

At a state ceremony marking the annual Jerusalem Day on Thursday,
Netanyahu said" "United Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem was
always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned
and divided."

A U.S. Congressional delegation in Jerusalem said on Sunday that it
was "skeptical" that Netanyahu's government would be able to move the
peace process with the Palestinians ahead.

The five-person delegation from the sub-committee on the Middle
East was headed by Congressman Gary Ackerman from New York, who is
considered one of Israel's greatest friends on Capitol Hill. The
delegation met with President Shimon Peres and other senior officials
in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority.

The representatives had tough questions for the Israelis on
construction in West Bank settlements and protested Israel's intention
to continue building to accommodate "natural growth." They also
expressed great concern over the siege on Gaza, noting that the
civilian population was suffering greatly from a lack of food and
medicine.

The prime minister said he had made the same declaration about the
unity of Jerusalem during his recent visit to Washington, where he met
with Obama over the peace process and Iran's nuclear program.

"Only under Israeli sovereignty will united Jerusalem ensure the
freedom of religion and freedom of access for the three religions to
the holy places," Netanyahu added.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said later Thursday that
Netanyahu's position on Jerusalem was a setback to the goal of a
two-state solution, which is strongly supported by the Obama
administration.

"Mr. Netanyahu, by saying that, he's saying the state of conflict will be eternal," Erekat said.

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