Meeting with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Friday morning in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran was continuing to develop its nuclear weapons capability and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“We’ve been saying all along that Iran is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community,” Netanyahu said, “so I wasn’t surprised and I’m sure you weren’t surprised by the recent UN report on Iran’s ongoing efforts to deceive the international community, to continue to develop its ICBMs and to continually violate its commitments of Security Council stipulations on forbidding it to develop certain parts of its nuclear program.
“They continue to do that, and I think that requires very clear and firm policy on the part of the world powers, the P5+1, and I think as the talks with Iran continue, one thing must guide the international community, and that is we must not let the Ayatollahs win. We must not let the foremost terrorist state of our time, Iran, develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons.”
Turning to the Palestinians, the prime minister said that the PA cannot have peace with both Israel and Hamas.
“One of the things we have found unfortunately is that our Palestinian neighbors are moving ahead in a pact with Hamas,” Netanyahu emphasized. “The United States has designated Hamas rightly as a terrorist organization, and obviously the Palestinians cannot have a pact with Hamas and peace with Israel.
“We’re concerned too that in both Gaza and in the PA-controlled areas, there is continual incitement and propaganda against the very existence of the Jewish state. A recent ADL study, published a few days ago, talks about the fact that in both places, anti-Semitic incitement is the most troubling on the planet, and that is something that I think hinders peace. I think the Palestinians have to make a simple choice, a pact with Hamas or peace with Israel, but they can’t have both.”
Hagel responded by assuring the prime minister that America would not let Iran build a nuclear weapon.
“America’s commitment to Israel’s security is resolute, and as you noted, the military exercise that I visited yesterday with Defense Minister Ya’alon demonstrates that commitment very completely. It also demonstrates the cutting edge work our countries are doing together on rocket and missile defense, and I appreciate your comments on that point – work that has strengthened Israel’s security and saved lives, and I want to assure you, Prime Minister and the people of Israel, of the United States’ continued commitment to ensuring Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, as President Obama has said, and that America will do what we must to live up to that commitment.”
Later Friday, Hagel met with President Shimon Peres.
“The problems we are facing are serious but we can and we should manage them,” Peres said. “President Obama said the US shouldn’t be the policemen of the world and I agree, the US should be the peacemaker of the world. No one can replace you. Your armed forces are to keep the world peaceful.”
Hagel’s visit comes after stops in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, where he also promised to keep Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.
The stop in Saudi Arabia was designed to calm Gulf states that feel vulnerable to Iran’s influence and are frustrated at US policy on Syria, which has not yet included weapons or other lethal aid in the three-year civil war. Washington also wants to foster more effective, practical forms of defense cooperation on the Arabian Peninsula by integrating their air and missile defense systems.
Hagel addressed the Iran issue at the outset of a meeting of defense ministers from the Gulf states allied with Washington, including Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Hagel promised the Gulf leaders that “under no circumstances” will the international negotiations with Iran this week in Vienna “trade away regional security for concessions on Iran’s nuclear program.”
“We will continue to hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities across the region,” he added. “And we will continue working closely with all of our friends and partners in the Gulf to reinforce their defenses against these destabilizing activities.”