With eyes on Iran, Netanyahu praises Trump over North Korea summit

PM hails US president’s Singapore meeting with Kim Jong Un as an ‘important development for Israel, the region and the entire world’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Global Forum, in the Jerusalem Convention Center, on June 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Global Forum, in the Jerusalem Convention Center, on June 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday hailed US President Donald Trump’s summit in Singapore with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as “historic” and an “important step” in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, while linking the meeting to the US leader’s “tough stance” on Iran.

“I congratulate US President Donald Trump for the historic summit in Singapore,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It is an important step in the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

“President Trump also takes a tough stance against Iran’s attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons, as well as against its aggression in the Middle East. This is leaving its mark on the Iranian economy,” he continued, referring to Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark 2015 pact last month.

“Trump’s policy is an important development for Israel, the region and the entire world,” Netanyahu added.

Trump and Kim held the unprecedented meeting in Singapore, after which they signed a joint document praised by both leaders.

On the heels of the Singapore summit, the US president on Tuesday said he hopes to negotiate a “real deal” with Iran over its nuclear program after Washington’s renewed, “brutal” sanctions kick in.

“I hope that, at the appropriate time, after the sanctions kick in — and they are brutal what we’ve put on Iran — I hope that they’re going to come back and negotiate a real deal because I’d love to be able to do that. But right now it’s too soon to do that,” Trump told reporters after meeting Kim.

Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal on May 8. The 2015 agreement required Iran to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for relief from international sanctions. Following his withdrawal from the pact, Trump has announced the restoration of US sanctions, while European leaders are trying to preserve the deal.

Iran has said it will ramp up its uranium enrichment capabilities and last week opened a new facility geared toward producing enrichment centrifuges that will operate within the limits of the nuclear deal.

Israeli ministers on Tuesday also applauded the Trump-Kim meeting over the “strong” message it sends to the Islamic Republic.

US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told The Associated Press that North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons would send a “strong” signal to Iran. He says it would “increase the pressure on Iran” to give up its nuclear infrastructure and capabilities.

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) also drew a parallel with Iran, praising the summit as “a mortal blow” to the Islamic Republic’s regional policies.

“The first glimmerings of reconciliation between the United States and North Korea are a mortal blow to the radical axis led by Iran,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

“This is just the beginning of a long and exhausting negotiation process, full of crises and disagreements. But the bottom line, as of now, is welcome: Trump’s aggressive and uncompromising policy is proving itself. This is wonderful news for the free world, and for Israel.”

Earlier Tuesday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the #2 lawmaker on the ruling party’s Knesset list, said the meeting with Kim was “a tremendous achievement” and said a similar meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would “not be terrible.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, February 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Given Trump’s values, both as expressed during the election and afterwards in his actions, it would not be terrible if such a meeting happens, as long as its goal and purpose is to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons [program], and also, as Trump understands, that’s not enough, but [the goal must also be] to change the nature of the regime and its support for terror all over the world, certainly in the Middle East.”

The summit — unthinkable only months ago — comes after the two nuclear-armed foes appeared on the verge of conflict late last year as they slung personal insults and Kim conducted nuclear and missile tests.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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