Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told his Italian counterpart Enrico Letta he would be willing to sit in a tent and remain there “until white smoke comes out” if it would help advance negotiations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu was alluding to the long process of selecting a new pope, at the end of which white smoke emerges from the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Last week Netanyahu told The Washington Post he’d sit in a tent halfway between Jerusalem and Ramallah if it would help advance peace.
“I am ready to go into the tent, the peace tent, and stay in the tent until white smoke comes out,” he told Letta, praising US Secretary of State John Kerry for working to bring about negotiations.
“We want peace. I want peace. We want to restart peace negotiations as soon as possible, without any obstacles,” Netanyahu said in opening statements at a press conference with his Italian guest. “We have to get into the tent and stay in the tent and seek to end this conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. That’s our goal. That is Secretary Kerry’s efforts, which I think deserve consistent and constant European support, and I’m sure that Italy will give that support.”
Netanyahu also referred to the larger regional turmoil, saying Israel was “facing significant challenges” to its security. Understanding the situation surrounding Israel, the prime minister said, was “important for the common security of Israel and Italy, Europe and the world.”
“I think the immediate [danger] is from Hezbollah, which is one of the preeminent terrorist organizations of our time,” the Israeli prime minister said. “Hezbollah,” Netanyahu said, “is now participating in the butchering of Syrian civilians with the Assad regime.”
Netanyahu called on the EU to recognize the Lebanese-based Shiite militia as a terror organization. Hezbollah, he said, has “conducted terror campaigns with Iran across 30 countries, including on European soil… If Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist organization, I don’t know what a terrorist organization is.”
Israel and Italy “have a common interest to make sure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons capability,” Netanyahu said, saying the Islamic Republic’s actions “should be tested by what they do and not what they say.”
“We should always look at substance over style, and as long as Iran continues to enrich uranium and not to remove its enriched uranium and to continue its activities in the illicit facility in Qom, I think the pressure should be held on them,” Netanyahu said, as he called for increased sanctions to be leveled along with “a credible military threat.”