Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the US airwaves Wednesday, persistent in his effort to convince the international community that Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s charm offensive at the UN last week was an act meant to cover up Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
“Everybody knows that Iran wants to destroy Israel and it’s building — trying to build atomic bombs for that purpose,” Netanyahu told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“You don’t want to be in a position where this messianic, apocalyptic, radical regime that has these wild ambitions but nice spokesmen, gets away with building these weapons of mass [destruction].”
Asked by Mitchell whether he ran the risk of overstating the threat and isolating Israel from the rest of the world that wants to see a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, the prime minister answered in the negative.
“No, no, I want a diplomatic solution, but one that actually dismantles Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
Netanyahu dismissed the notion that Rouhani was freely elected, saying Iranians would topple the regime if they could.
“These people, the Iranian people, the majority of them are actually pro-Western,” he stated, adding, “But they don’t have that. They’re governed not by Rouhani, they’re governed by Ayatollah Khamenei. He heads a cult. That cult is wild in its ambitions and its aggression.”
Netanyahu had extended his trip to the US by an extra day, with the aim of speaking to as many US media outlets as possible about the Iranian nuclear threat.
Speaking to PBS’s Charlie Rose, Netanyahu said that Arab states have a historic opportunity to ally with Israel to advance regional security, stability and peace in the face of the Iranian threat.
Netanyahu emphasized his commitment to national security and urged caution when dealing with Iran. “We just have to make sure that in this state of flux, we do the right things and not the wrong things. Because we can easily upset the applecart in a way that we won’t be able to put it back together,” he told PBS. “We cannot do that, we have to be very responsible, buck the trends, don’t go by fashion. If you govern by fashion and you govern by the kind of editorials you’re gonna get, you’ll get good editorials and later you’ll get good eulogies.”
“My responsibility is to ensure the survival, security, longevity of the one and only Jewish state. I will do that pursuing peace, and I’m prepared to make historic compromises,” Netanyahu said, perhaps alluding to ongoing peace talks with the Palestinians. Despite this, he said he would “never compromise on Israel’s security.”
On Monday, with a US government shutdown looming, Netanyahu spent hours with President Barack Obama at the White House discussing Iran and making sure the US would keep up the pressure on the regime in Tehran.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu vowed at the UN General Assembly that Israel would stop Iran’s nuclear drive on its own if necessary. “Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us out,” he said. Still, he stressed, he did not dismiss the diplomatic-sanctions route. “We all want to give diplomacy with Iran a chance to succeed,” he said.
On Wednesday, Rouhani responded unequivocally to Netanyahu’s UN speech, promising to continue what Iran insists is a peaceful nuclear program with “full power.”
“Israel is upset to see that its sword has gone blunt and Iran grows more powerful day by day,” Rouhani told reporters in Tehran, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.