Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday decried Iranian “aggression” across the Middle East, telling German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that an emerging nuclear deal should take into account not only Tehran’s alleged nuclear ambition but also its regional aspirations.
After noting that “the greatest threat to Israel’s security, to the stability of the region and to the peace of the world” was Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons, Netanyahu pointed to an Iranian “campaign of aggression across the entire Middle East, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, around our borders on the Golan.”
Speaking at a press conference after his meeting with Steinmeier, the prime minister added, “Today, Iran is sponsoring terrorism across the globe beyond the Middle East, in the Middle East, but also in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas. Iran is building a vast infrastructure of terror.”
He said Iran is “conducting an unprecedented, I would say, conventional arms build-up. It’s developing a huge arms industry, which includes drones, rockets, precision guided missiles, submarines and satellites as well.”
Netanyahu said that he and Steinmeier had discussed “at some length” the stalled peace process with the Palestinians.
“I think the only way to move that is through direct negotiations,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority has moved away from these negotiations, but I believe, I remain committed to the idea that the only way we can achieve a lasting peace is through the concept of two states for two peoples — a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish nation-state of Israel.”
After meeting with Netanyahu, the German foreign minister met with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Picking up where they had left off during Rivlin’s official visit to Germany two weeks ago, the two men spoke about current developments in the region and bilateral ties between Germany and Israel.
During the meeting, Rivlin spoke of the international concern over the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the need for the resumption of talks.
“We do not need to be pressured,” he told the German foreign minister. “The need to rebuild Gaza and the renewal of direct negotiations is very clear to us. The Palestinians’ unilateral actions as we saw for example on Friday in Zurich are unnecessary and a bizarre twist on history — that the successors of those who murdered athletes in Munich should now be promoting a boycott of Israel goes against the ideas of humanity and justice.”
Referring to the fact that Steinmeier would be traveling to the Palestinian Authority later Sunday for a meeting with the PA president, Rivlin said, “We hope that in your meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, you will be able to stress the idea that, for both people, the only way we will be able to bring an end to the conflict is through direct negotiations.”
The German foreign minister thanked Rivlin for his warm welcome, and said, “I remember that when we have met in the past, we often spoke about the crisis in your region, and today we are also discussing the crisis in our region. The calming of the situation in the eastern Ukraine is still very difficult and the ceasefire is still very fragile.
“At the same time, I know that the situation in your region is much more complicated. I just had the opportunity to discuss with Prime Minister Netanyahu the number of crisis regions here — Syria, Iran, and the Palestinians. I still believe in the need to return to negotiations for a two-state solution. The troubled situation in Gaza demands of us to think about concrete steps to improve daily life there — without which, I am afraid, the situation is escalating.”
Steinmeier said during the meeting that he wished to promote concrete measures for the reconstruction of Gaza in order to build confidence between both sides, adding that the discussion had to focus on Gaza as well as on the West Bank.
Both men affirmed that Europe had an important role to play in mediating an end to the conflict.