PM: Israel, US, UK must form united front to combat Iran ‘aggression’
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PM: Israel, US, UK must form united front to combat Iran ‘aggression’

Boarding plane to meet British PM, Netanyahu slams Tehran’s ‘unusual hutzpah,’ says it’s testing new administrations in London, Washington

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara embark on flight to London, February 5, 2017. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara embark on flight to London, February 5, 2017. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel must form a united front to combat Iran’s “extraordinary aggression.”

Iran is “trying to test the boundaries” of new administrations in Washington and London “with extraordinary aggression, with unusual hutzpah and antagonism,” Netanyahu told reporters as he boarded a plane to London ahead of meetings Monday with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Late last month, Iran tested intercontinental ballistic missiles in an apparent breach of a United Nations Security Council resolution, prompting angry responses from Jerusalem and Washington.

“There’s a new administration in Washington, a new government in Britain. I intend to speak with both of them on strengthening ties, both between each one and Israel, and trilaterally,” Netanyahu affirmed. “That’s what I will do next week in Washington, and that’s what I’m doing tomorrow in London.”

“I think the most important thing at the moment is that countries like the United States, with its leadership, and Britain and Israel, stand united against Iran’s aggression and set clear boundaries,” he said.

US President Donald Trump, echoing Netanyahu, has harshly criticized the nuclear deal Iran struck with six world powers, and last week threatened the regime over its illicit missile tests. The regime was “playing with fire,” the US president said, vowing to react to Iranian saber-rattling more aggressively than his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a joint press conference with US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, January 27, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a joint press conference with US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, January 27, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

Netanyahu was slated to meet May and British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in London. He is scheduled for his first summit with Trump in Washington on February 15.

The prime minister will return to Israel after meeting with Johnson late Monday.

The UK, which is currently in the process of leaving the European Union, is seeking to forge new international alliances, most notably with the US. But London has in recent weeks also courted Jerusalem and took a pro-Israel line by refusing to sign the closing document at the Paris conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in January.

However, as opposed to Israel and the US, Great Britain has full diplomatic relations with Iran, including a functioning embassy in Tehran. The Foreign Office has so far remained mum over Iran’s ballistic missiles test launches. Thus, it remains to be seen whether Netanyahu will succeed in getting the UK to align with the Israel-American anti-Iran position.

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing street for the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session at the House of Commons in central London, February 1, 2017. (AFP/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing street for the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session at the House of Commons in central London, February 1, 2017. (AFP/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel is gearing up for “a significant diplomatic period,” a likely reference to a slew of upcoming trips abroad. Next week, he is scheduled to meet Trump at the White House, and two days after his return from Washington on February 17, will embark on a weeklong trip to Singapore and Australia.

Before his departure from Ben Gurion Airport, Netanyahu also spoke of the need to delay the final votes on the so-called Regulation Bill, which would legalize some 4,000 West Bank housing units built on private Palestinian land. While the votes were originally scheduled for Monday, the prime minister reportedly told coalition party leaders Sunday that he wants to delay in order to coordinate with the new US administration before passing the contentious bill into law.

When asked about potential rebellion from his coalition partners who are reluctant to delay the vote, Netanyahu replied, “I’m always hearing fake ultimatums. I’m not excited by [people giving] false briefings to the media.”

“I’m busy running the country and as I run the country I think about our overarching interest, and all my actions are directed toward it,” the prime minister said.

The bill, slammed by large parts of the Israeli left and center-right, as well as Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, would legalize several thousand homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank built illegally, offering financial compensation to the Palestinian landowners and staving off any further demolitions such as the one carried out against the illegal Amona outpost last week. The High Court of Justice was predicted to torpedo the legislation.

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