Veep: Best days for US and 'most cherished ally' yet to come

In Jerusalem with Pence, Netanyahu roasts Europe over Iran stance

Washington ‘on the right side of history’ in backing anti-regime protesters, PM tells visiting US veep, who hails ‘our most cherished ally, Israel’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday evening thanked the US administration for its tough stance on Iran, saying Washington stands on “the right side of history” for rejecting the nuclear deal and supporting Iranian protesters’ recent demonstrations against the regime.

At a joint press appearance with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence, Netanyahu lambasted European leaders for their responses to the recent protests across Iran, and called on world leaders to agree to the White House’s policy to demand substantial changes to the Iran nuclear deal, which six world powers signed with Tehran in 2015.

“I want to salute both President Trump and you, Mr. Vice President, for standing with the people of Iran, when so many in Europe and elsewhere, were shamefully silent,” Netanyahu said, standing alongside Pence at the Prime Minister’s Residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street.

“Some — and this is hard to believe — some actually hosted the regime’s mouthpieces, while its goons were throwing thousands of Iranian protesters into prison,” he said.

Netanyahu was apparently referring to the European Union hosting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Brussels recently to discuss ways to maintain the nuclear deal. Brussels and Tehran are in favor of keeping the deal as is, while Washington and Jerusalem have called for either drastic changes or a total annulment of the deal.

“I share the belief that Iran’s radical regime will ultimately fall, and one day Iran’s people will win the freedom they so justly deserve,” the prime minister went on, minutes before he hosted Pence and his wife Karen for a private dinner. “And when that day comes, they will remember those who stood with them, and those who stood with their oppressors. You’re on the right side of history.”

Israel agrees with the US administration that the nuclear deal with Iran is “disastrous,” Netanyahu said, arguing that it paves Tehran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.

A Ghadr-F missile is displayed next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a Revolutionary Guard hardware exhibition marking the 36th anniversary of outset of Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Sq. in downtown Tehran, Iran, on Sunday, September 25, 2016. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

“That’s why Israel supports President Trump’s policy regarding the deal,” he said. “There is still time for leaders to seize the opportunity that President Trump has offered them, to correct the failings of this failed deal. But if those leaders do not seize that opportunity, or if they offer only cosmetic changes, Israel will unequivocally support the president’s decision to walk away from a bad deal and restore crippling sanctions.

“Our position is clear: fully fix it, or fully nix it,” he added.

The prime minister also briefly addressed the conflict with the Palestinians, asserting Israel’s readiness “to advance peace, including the Palestinians.”

Said Netanyahu, “As soon as the Palestinians accept the truth about the millennial connection of the Jews to this land and to this city, the sooner we can work together to reach a historic agreement that will create a better future for both our peoples.”

Pence, speaking after Netanyahu, said he had spoken to Trump shorty after his speech earlier in the day at the Knesset. “He asked me to give you not only his greetings, but his thanks for hospitality you afforded his vice president,” he said.

Trump also asked Pence to thank Netanyahu for “your stalwart commitment to freedom, your strong leadership of the people of Israel, and your unbending commitment to the relationship between the United States and Israel,” Pence said.

On Tuesday — the last day of his trip — Pence is scheduled to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and pray at the Western Wall.

“This is our fourth visit to the Holy Land, but we never fail to leave here without a sense that our faith has been renewed — our faith in God, but also our faith in the extraordinary people of Israel and their commitment to freedom, security and peace,” he said.

“I leave here with confidence that with President Trump in the White House, and with your strong leadership here in Israel, that the best days for the United States and our most cherished ally, Israel, are yet to come,” he added.

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