PM, under attack, insists he ‘won’t be silent’ on Iran

In speech to Rome’s Jews, Netanyahu warns sanctions pressure is collapsing, easing Tehran’s path to the bomb

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy on December 1, 2013 (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy on December 1, 2013 (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

Israel will not stand silent as its security is compromised and will take action to dispel any threat leveled against the state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

Speaking at the Great Synagogue in Rome, Netanyahu shot back at critics of his policies, and said that he was concerned more with Israel’s safety than with his public image.

“In contrast to others, when I see that interests vital to the security of Israel’s citizens are in danger, I will not be silent,” the prime minister said.

“I am committed to the future of my state and in contrast to periods in the past, we have a loud and clear voice among the nations and we will sound it in time in order to warn of the danger.”

These remarks were apparently directed at his predecessor Ehud Olmert, who earlier Sunday slammed Netanyahu’s public feuding with the US over the best way to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons drive.

Netanyahu went on to directly address Iran’s nuclear program, and said that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of the Islamic Republic would not only endanger Israel, but the entire Middle East.

“I would like to dispel any illusions. Iran aspires to attain an atomic bomb,” he said, adding that Tehran was also spreading violence across the region.

“Today there is a regime in Iran that supports terrorism, facilitates the massacre of civilians in Syria and unceasingly arms its proxies – Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad – with deadly missiles.”

Netanyahu concluded his remarks by stressing that the lifting of sanctions on Tehran would pave the way for the Islamist regime in Tehran to produce nuclear weapons.

“As we have warned, and I say this with regret, the sanctions have started to weaken and very quickly,” the prime minister said.

“If tangible steps are not taken soon, [the sanctions pressure] is liable to collapse and the efforts of years will vanish without anything in exchange.”

Netanyahu left Israel Sunday morning for a working trip to Rome, where he is also expected to meet with Pope Francis.

Netanyahu has publicly savaged the Geneva interim accord with Iran, signed early last week, as a “historic mistake.” Officials in Jerusalem have repeatedly castigated President Barack Obama for overseeing a failed negotiating process with Iran under which, they claim, Iran’s nuclear weapons drive is not being thwarted while the sanctions pressure against Iran is collapsing.

Earlier Sunday, Olmert launched a bitter attack against his successor, Netanyahu, for his “utterly misguided” and “dangerous” policy of publicly confronting the United States over its Iran policy.

“We’ve declared war on the American government. You can’t deny this,” Olmert said at panel discussion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Olmert also accused Netanyahu of “wasting” 10 billion shekels — some $2.8 billion — preparing “something we didn’t need to prepare.” This was an apparent reference to a potential Israeli strike on Iran.

“There is one country in the world that regularly votes in favor of the State of Israel at the United Nations over all those years, in cases in which we were 100 percent correct and in cases when we perhaps weren’t 100% correct,” Olmert added.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report

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