Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu met briefly with Joe Biden in Jerusalem on Thursday and later said he told the US president that an offensive military option against Iran and a readiness to use it were necessary to confront the regime in Tehran.
“I told him that with no credible military option, Iran won’t be stopped. If Iran isn’t deterred, that military option has to be used,” Netanyahu said.
Biden and Netanyahu held a brief, 15-minute meeting at the Israeli president’s residence as the US president visits Israel and meets with its leaders.
Netanyahu said the talk with Biden was a “warm, excellent meeting” and stressed their deep friendship and Biden’s “truly unwavering” commitment to Israel. Netanyahu and Biden have had a long, friendly relationship, although they are often politically at odds.
Netanyahu noted Biden’s role in securing supplementary funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system and said Biden “supported us in many areas over the years.”
“We’ve been friends for 40 years,” he said, “but to ensure the next 40 years, we must deal with the Iranian threat.”
ברוך הבא חברי הנשיא ביידן! ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/OCZF2MrW8S
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) July 14, 2022
Sanctions and defensive military preparations were not enough to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons program, he said.
“I told him the [2105 JCPOA] deal is lousy. He knows my position… I told him that with no credible military option, Iran won’t be stopped. If Iran isn’t deterred, that military option has to be used.”
“That’s my position, that’s my commitment, and I greatly hope that that is the American position,” Netanyahu said.
“That’s my position, that’s my commitment, and I greatly hope that that is the American position,” Netanyahu said. “He said he agreed, and I was pleased to hear it.
“That’s what I will do if and when I return to the Prime Minister’s Office,” Netanyahu added.
There was no immediate statement from the US side about the meeting.
Iran has been a leading topic during Biden’s visit, as nuclear talks remain stalled and Tehran is believed closer than ever to producing a nuclear weapon.
Israel is headed to elections in November, and Biden met with Netanyahu to avoid the perception that the US was taking sides in the Israeli campaign cycle.
Biden’s visit also gives Prime Minister Yair Lapid, at the moment Netanyahu’s main political rival, a stage to impress Israeli voters after assuming office earlier this month. Lapid issued a similar message on Iran during his meeting with Biden on Thursday.
“Words will not stop them, Mr. President,” said Lapid. “Diplomacy will not stop them. The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force. The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table.”
Lapid stressed to Biden that Iran will not agree to a stronger nuclear deal without a credible military threat, and said that at some point the procrastination by Tehran in the talks must end.
Biden has expressed warmth for Israel and steadfast support, including against Iran, since touching down on Wednesday.
Biden and Lapid signed a joint strategic declaration on Thursday, in which the US vowed to use “all elements in its national power” to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Biden told Israel’s Channel 12 news on Wednesday that he would use force against Iran as a “last resort” to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons, but stressed his preference to negotiate with the Iranians instead.
“Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon,” Biden said.
According to a report by Channel 12 news Thursday evening, Israeli officials have failed to convince US leaders to take a tougher approach toward Iran and increase the pressure on it at this time.
Citing unnamed security sources, the report said this has created frustration in Jerusalem, as well as resolve to accelerate Israel’s own preparations to act if needed.
The network also said that in the past two days, the security establishment has identified “movements” by Iranians and Iranian affiliates in the Middle East, who they suspect may be preparing “provocations” against Israeli or American interests in the region in response to Biden’s visit, in an attempt to raise the pressure on the US administration.
Biden will visit East Jerusalem and the West Bank Friday, where he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He will likely receive a more frosty reception from the Palestinians. He angered the Palestinian leadership on Wednesday by saying at his official welcome ceremony in Israel that a two-state solution was not feasible “in the near term.”
The Palestinians are also irked that the US did not hold Israel more directly responsible for the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The US said Israeli troops were likely responsible, but had not deliberately targeted the reporter.
Biden has pushed the Israeli leadership to rein in settlement construction, and Israel made a series of concessions to the Palestinians immediately before Biden’s visit.
After the West Bank, Biden will fly directly to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main regional adversary. The US has said that better integrating Israel into the region is a focus of the trip, but has played down hopes for any major breakthroughs in the Israeli-Saudi relationship.