Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conducted on Tuesday his annual meeting with the international press.
During his address, Netanyahu reviewed some of the main events which have taken place over the last year.
He began by discussing Iran, describing 2009 as a year in which Iran was unmasked and adding that the unmasking continued in 2010.
“People witnessed the brutal nature of this regime in the wake of its elections and Iran was caught red-handed building a nuclear facility, a secret nuclear facility in Qom,” said Netanyahu. “And of course I think that in the parting year, people also understood the danger that such a regime would pose if it possessed nuclear weapons. I think that’s become part of the international understanding of very broad segments of the world community.”
Netanyahu praised the sanctions that were imposed on Iran in 2010 by the UN Security Council led by the United States. “I think President Obama and Secretary Clinton should be congratulated for pushing this as well as advancing sanctions outside the United Nations – tougher sanctions – by the US, by the Europeans and by others.”
Netanyahu added, however, that despite these sanctions having put significant pressure on Iran and having caused it hardship, they are not enough. “They have not in any way altered Iran’s determination to pursue its nuclear program,” emphasized Netanyahu. “They’re determined to move ahead despite every difficulty, every obstacle, every setback to create nuclear weapons. And since the purpose of the sanctions is to change that determination, those sanctions have not yet achieved their objective. So I think they should be strictly enforced and I think they should be materially strengthened.”
The Prime Minister also said that he believes that the military option against Iran should remain on the table. “I said two months ago that the only chance that these sanctions would achieve their objectives would be to couple them with an understanding from Iran that no matter what, they’ll be followed – that is if they don’t achieve their goal, they’ll be followed by a credible military option. I said that because in the many years that I’ve been talking about this and that Iran has been pursuing its nuclear weapons program, there was only one respite, there was a momentary pause, in 2003 when Iran thought that there was a credible military option from the United States, it temporarily suspended its nuclear weapons program. I believe that today the same is true.”
Netanyahu also mentioned Iran in the context of WikiLeaks and said that WikiLeaks “exposed the three main concerns of most, if not all, of the governments in this region. The first concern is Iran; the second concern is Iran; and the third concern is Iran. That’s not to say that they don’t want to see the advance in the peace process – they do; that they’re not concerned about the Arab-Israeli peace – they are. But they’re very much concerned that all of this would come to naught, and in fact their own interests (I’m speaking diplomatically now) would be tremendously jeopardized unless the Iranian nuclear program is stopped. Peace would be stopped and vital interests of just about every government in the region would be threatened.”
Referring to the peace process, Netanyahu predicted that 2011 will expose the truth about who is seriously interested in peace in the region. He quoted the “conventional wisdom” by which the Palestinian Authority wants peace and Israel does not, and added: “You have 60,000 rockets pointed on your cities, on your house. You have a lot of chutzpah to say to people that the Israeli people don’t want peace. I don’t think there’s any people in the world that want peace more, pray for peace, yearn for peace, hope for peace more than the Israeli people.”
Netanyahu presented five things his government has done in order to show Israel wants peace: Calling for direct peace negotiations, removing roadblocks and checkpoints, his Bar Ilan Speech that called for two states for two peoples, the ten month freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, and finally, the willingness to extend another the freeze for another three months
“While we did these five things, this is what the Palestinians did: they refused to negotiate for the first time since the Oslo process began 18 years ago,” said Netanyahu. “They placed a settlement freeze as a precondition for negotiations. They wasted nine months before coming to the talks and then they left the talks after three weeks and all of six hours of direct negotiations. These are the facts. Some may distort them; some may ignore them, but they still remain the facts.”
He added that “no coalition considerations will prevent me from pursuing a peace that I believe in. I’ll tell you something else. I think that if I bring a peace agreement, which means that I believe in the agreement that I will sign, I think that I will bring the support of the Israeli public. I don’t think, I know that. So I think the Palestinians are missing out on something very important.”
Netanyahu emphasized that elements of security alongside the elements of recognition are “absolutely essential to the achievement of peace. This is what I hope to discuss with Abu Mazen, with President Abbas. I want to sit down with him. These are our concerns. I know he has his concerns. I’m prepared to discuss this, directly. We don’t have to go to another place. We can sit down right here. This is what people do if they actually want to make peace.”
He added that he has “no preconditions for negotiations. The only precondition for negotiation is negotiation. It’s the only one.”
“In any case, I’ll tell you that in 2011, everyone, I believe, will come out of that year knowing who really wants peace. We’ll meet here in a year and I think you’ll see that I’m right,” concluded Netanyahu.
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