Interview with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Fox News (Excerpts)

September 22, 2009


Reporter Brett Baier: Earlier today President Obama met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - in the latest effort to start a dialogue between the two longtime adversaries. Following that meeting I talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu about Iran, and whether the US has given Iran another deadline to come clean about its nuclear program.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: What I heard from President Obama is he doesn't want to have Iran just dawdle away the time. He understands. He said that there has to be a clear and finite resolve within a given amount of time to see if the Iranians are serious about stopping the nuclear program.

Reporter: But you don't have a new date.

PM Netanyahu: Well, put it this way - I think that I heard clarity. Now the question of course is whether Iran understands this clarity and what's most important is that if it doesn't, that the international community with or without the Security Council, slap very forceful sanctions on Iran because this regime is very vulnerable. It is not as strong as people think. It doesn't have the support of the Iranian people. There's a lot of pressure that could be applied to make it stop the enrichment of nuclear material.

Reporter: How long can Israel wait for the world to act before Israel has to act unilaterally against the Iranian nuclear program?

PM Netanyahu: Brett, I'm not going to deal in hypotheticals although you want me to. I suppose any country has and reserves the right for self defense and Israel is no exception but I think the specter of Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons and possibly giving it to terrorists or giving them...

Reporter: You think they want a nuclear weapon?

PM Netanyahu: ... sufficiently troublesome for the international community to get its act together and act to stop this from happening.

Reporter: You're convinced they want a nuclear weapon.

PM Netanyahu: Yes I am.

Reporter: Just how long, do you think, from Israel's perspective, would it take Iran to get one?

PM Netanyahu:. Well, it's getting shorter, because they're amassing more enriched material.

Reporter: I mean some of the bullet points lately of stories coming out seem like in months. Is that possible?

PM Netanyahu: What I think is possible is for the international community to make Iran reconsider its blatant flaunting of international commitments and international obligations. It's possible to apply pressure on them. This regime has been unmasked. I mean that a few months ago I would have told you that seventy five percent, maybe eighty percent of the Iranian people detest this regime - this theocratic dictatorship and you would have said, well, well maybe yes, maybe not, but the Iranian people show unbelievable courage - going out there in the streets again and again and saying we want our freedom. We don't want this medieval doctrinaire despotism controlling our lives and now you see it and that when you see that, you ask, do you want - do you want these people to have nuclear weapons and the answer is no, none of us do - the Iranian people don't and the sooner pressure is applied, the sooner that that catastrophic development would be averted.

Reporter: How concerned are you about Russia selling S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran?

PM Netanyahu: Well I can tell you what I've said in open forums and to leaders all over the world. I think that arming Iran with advanced weapons would give the regime -that regime - the feeling that in fact they're immune to pressures - they're immune to the statement that President Obama has made repeatedly that all options are on the table. If they think that all options are not on the table it will be that much harder to make the sanctions work so I think that for the sake of peace and for the sake of security, these weapons should not be given or sold to Iran.

Reporter: Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski is quoted this week about a possible Israel strike on Iran - that "the US is not impotent here and that possibly preventing Israel from bombing Iran", this is what he said quote, "They have to fly over airspace in Iraq. If they fly over, you go and confront them. They have a choice of turning back or not." Your reaction to that.

PM Netanyahu: Well, I'm not going to respond to a hypothetical on a hypothetical.

Reporter: Okay but how about this question: Are you 100% confident that if you have to act unilaterally, that you will have the backing of the US government?

PM Netanyahu: No, I have nothing to add about not adding and responding to a hypothetical of a hypothetical of a third hypothetical.

Reporter: Okay, how much cooperation and consent…

PM Netanyahu: I think it's a worldwide interest and an American and joint American Israeli interest to make sure that Iran does not get nuclear weapons.

Reporter: How much consent or full cooperation will Israel need from the United States?

PM Netanyahu: I think the question is how much cooperation the international community is going to muster among its leading members to make sure that these options are not really necessary because there are sufficiently strong, economic, political, diplomatic pressures that could be applied to Iran and the stronger they are, the less severe the measures needed to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

Reporter: Along that line is it clear to you that Russia and/or China will never sign on to meaningful economic sanctions against Iran? A lot of critics of those two countries believe that that's the case.

PM Netanyahu: I don't know. I don't know. I hope that's not the case. I hope that they understand that their own security - their own interest would be impaired if they just take a - not a long-term view, just a middle-term or even a short-term view of their most basic interest to have the Ayatollah regime arming itself with the weapons of mass death is something that would jeopardize their interests and everyone's interest so A) I hope they view this along these lines and B) I think that it's possible to act in a multinational way without necessarily the Security Council. I hope they mobilize the Security Council for this necessary action. But even if they don't, we've seen time and again that if the major powers in the world - not all of them, but most of them act in unison that it's possible to apply very strong pressure, and first and foremost economic pressure, on a country like Iran.

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