Joint Press Conference of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Excerpts)

August 27, 2009


PM Netanyahu: So, the Chancellor and I had today a broad discussion on a wide range of international, regional and bilateral issues. The first issue we discussed is Iran. The development of nuclear weapons by the Iranian regime, whose true nature has been exposed in the recent Iranian elections, is something that threatens Israel and threatens the region, and threatens the peace of the world. It's something that I think concerns us all. Israel expects all responsible members of the international community to address this threat, and I was pleased to hear from Chancellor Merkel that Germany is committed to responsibly addressing this threat. There is not much time. I think that the most important thing that can be put in place are what the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "crippling sanctions". It is possible to put real pressure, real economic pressure on this regime. If the major powers of the world unite, obviously it would be best if the United States Security Council could put together such a package, but it is possible for the coalition of the willing to do so even without a UN Security Council decision.

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Q: The first question is for you, and the second is the Israeli Prime Minister. I've been covering now many, many press conferences with three Israeli prime ministers, and many Western leaders, and we keep on hearing that the world is going to impose sanctions on Iran and is going to impose even harder sanctions on Iran. And I wonder, Madam Chancellor, as a brave woman, as a brave leader, if the though doesn't cross your mind that one day we will wake up and it's going to be too late, and as those words are only lip-service for the world. And we see that the imposing of sanctions on North Korea didn't help because tyrannical leaders do not care about their people. If there is no oil or there is no fuel, they take it for themselves, not for the people. And for you, Israeli Prime Minister, I wonder if you appreciate the role that Germany plays on the issue of Gilad Shalit. Thank you.

Chancellor Merkel: Let me say that I have, on a personal note, every understanding for your impatience, but as a politician, as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, I have to try time and time again to bring about a success, which is an arduous task, which is difficult. I would readily admit that it's not easy for us either. But if I think of how we can solve the problems, well then I say it means that it cannot be one country alone. For example, sanctions that we, as Germans, would impose, or to the others who think as we do, will not be as effective as if, for example, we try to get China and Russia to be in on this. That is a much longer process, and this is why I am saying we will not be able to allow for a situation where a few countries of the European Union and America are in on this, but we leave China, for example, Russia and other countries outside of this. I think it's much more effective to have all of us join in, and it's better to have a positive reaction than a negative one on the table. L'Aquila was so effective because all of the G8 countries decided, also Russia, "Yes, we want to have, as of a certain date, a positive response by the Iranians on the table, otherwise there will be certain measures." We already have sanctions in place, but we can go further on sanctions, and we're ready to do that.

I too would have liked to solve those problems yesterday already, but unfortunately there is not that easy solution that we both might wish for. It's a long and arduous task to bring about this solution, and we live in an international community, where you have a number of countries that are absolutely certain that we must not allow Iran to have a nuclear capability, and it's very essential to stand together on this. And we do that, and I'm very gratified to know that.

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Q: Thomas Nils with the German Public Radio. Mr. Prime Minister, why is it, in your opinion, that almost on a daily base, Western politicians express concern and complain about the not-yet existing Iranian nuclear weapons, but don't include the existing Israeli ones. Is there any chance, one day, to get a negotiation about a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, in the whole Middle East? And Madam Chancellor, is there any kind of link between asking for harder sanctions against Iran and the readiness to actually pin down a moratorium on the building of other settlements?

PM Netanyahu: ... the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East, but I suppose the concern with Iran's patent and overt attempts to introduce such weapons comes out of the fact that Iran is saying that they want to wipe my country off the face of the Earth, and Iran sponsors terrorists from the two Iranian proxies, Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the South. They've fired 10,000 rockets on our cities and towns. So to think that Iran would have these weapons, or could give it to terrorists, should be of concern not only to Israelis, but rightly for Europeans, Americans, a lot of Arabs - a lot more than people can think, because they understand that such a regime is a menace to the peace of the world. It also happens to threaten the existence of my country, and we're not threatening the existence of anyone.

Chancellor Merkel: The question of nuclear weapons for Iran and the questions of the peace process certainly are linked in a political sense, but I think it would be very wrong to establish a linkage between them. We need to make further progress on this issue. It's in the interest of the world; it's in the interest of Israel, in the interest of the Arabs and the Palestinians, and stopping the settlements, the building of further settlements, is I think of crucial importance. There needs to be progress there. This is why I welcome the talks with Mr. Mitchell that took place yesterday. These talks will be continued, and I said that on behalf of the German government, we feel that time is running out now. It's getting urgent.

On the Iranian nuclear program, the task is to negotiate with Iran on this, and to make it very clear to them that the possession of any nuclear weapon and nuclear device by the Iranians will need to be prevented by us, but we have not established a linkage here.

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