Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday used a meeting with visiting US Senators to send a stark message to Washington: “History will not forgive those who do not stop Iran’s nuclear program.”
Speaking to a delegation of senators led by 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain (R- Arizona), Netanyahu sent a thinly veiled message to US president Barack Obama, saying that “Building in Jerusalem is not the world’s problem. A nuclear Iran is.”
The prime minister’s statement followed days in which a report by Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, describing Obama as being frustrated with Netanyahu, has made waves in political circles and the media.
The key focus of Obama’s reported criticism was Netanyahu’s settlement construction policies, which recently included plans for thousands of homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in response to the Palestinian Authority’s successful gambit to gain nonmember observer state status from the UN in November.
Following his meeting with the senators, in which they discussed the changes taking place in the Middle East, the danger of Syria’s chemical weapons falling into terrorist hands, the ongoing Hamas-Fatah reunification talks, and the need to strengthen sanctions on Iran, Netanyahu thanked the senators for the Senate’s unwavering bipartisan support for Israel.
Earlier Saturday, the senators met with President Shimon Peres, who spoke to them about Iran, Syria, and the future of the region.
“We appreciate the American position on Iran, that it cannot be permitted a nuclear weapon, if possible by civilian means, but that all options are on the table,” said Peres.
“I have a great deal of sorrow and worry about the ongoing bloodshed in Syria. We all wish that the Middle East will become a region of peace which will answer the demands of the young generation,” he added.
McCain thanked Peres and praised Israel for being ”an island of hope and a beacon to people all over the world who see Israel as a model and as an example of democracy and freedom.”
McCain was part of a delegation that included Senator Kelly Ayotte (R- NH), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D- RI) and Senator Christopher Coons (D- Del). Prior to arriving in Jerusalem, the senators traveled to Egypt, Afghanistan, and Jordan.
“All of us believe that [President Bashar] Assad’s departure is inevitable but we’re also very concerned how long that process will take,” said McCain.