Interview with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum (Excerpts)

January 25, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

Fareed Zakaria:  
It's good to have you.

PM Netanyahu: 
It's good to be with you again.

I think we do this once every two years or so.

Fareed Zakaria: 
We're trying to do it more often, if you'll allow us.

Right now, you just met with President Trump. The president said something quite dramatic recently, that he was not going to renew the waiver of sanctions on Iran. Which means that at some point, it is quite possible that the United States will unilaterally withdraw from the Iran deal. Then, Iran would have the option, presumably, of beginning to enrich uranium again, go down a path, a nuclear path again.

Isn't that a bad outcome for Israel?

PM Netanyahu:  
No. I think that the present deal is so deeply flawed, that it guarantees that Iran will have what it needs to make nuclear weapons, including enrichment of fissile material on a vast scale.

This is what is problematic with the deal. It just gives them a timeline, and it says, within X years, eight years, whatever…

Fareed Zakaria:  
But wouldn't it be better for you for it to be 15 years from now, than next month?

PM Netanyahu: 
No. Because what they can do today is at best enrich uranium for one weapon. Under the deal, they'll be able to enrich uranium for 100, 200 bombs, and that's…

Fareed Zakaria: 
Fifteen years from now.

PM Netanyahu:  
Maybe eight or ten. And they could break out, that's rush to create a nuclear--- an arsenal of nuclear weapons, unimpeded by any international agreement. In fact, the agreement lets them do it.

So this is why the deal is so bad, because it gives Iran, the preeminent terror state of our time, the wherewithal to produce nuclear weapons, nuclear bombs. They could give it to proxies, terrorist, they could use it themselves. That's where we don't want to get to.

So, I don't personally care if they fix the deal or if they cancel the deal, keep it or nix it. The important thing for me is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear arsenal, because Iran not only spreads terror worldwide. Iran openly says that it's going to use those weapons, and use every weapon they have to annihilate Israel.

We're not going to let that happen.

Fareed Zakaria:  
When you talk to European leaders, at least certainly when I've talked to European leaders and certainly in their public statements, they say they support the deal. They do not see any reason to amend it. They believe Iran is in compliance with the deal and they think it produces stability.

So, when you talk to them and say, fix the deal, do they tell you, yes, we're going to fix the deal? Or do they say what they're saying publically, which is the deal is good, there's no reason--- there's nothing--- no fixing needs to be done?

PM Netanyahu: 
Well, I'll tell you what I tell them. You know…

Fareed Zakaria: 
What I'm hoping is that you'll tell me what they tell you privately.

PM Netanyahu:  
Well, I'm sure you do.

But, I can say that the fact that they signed a bad deal doesn't mean they have to keep a bad deal.

In history you've had instances of nations signing very bad deals and living, if they managed to live, to regret it.

There was such a deal, by the way, most recently, with North Korea. They had a deal. Everybody said, that's it, you know, the North Koreans will keep the deal and it will prevent North Korea from having nuclear weapons, they'll join the community of nations.

So much for that

So, they signed a deal

Fareed Zakaria:  
Wouldn't we wish for a deal, given that there are inspectors in Iran, given that it's much more difficult to break---

Are you comfortable with an Iran where there's no deal and it can do whatever it wants tomorrow?

PM Netanyahu: 
I don't think it can do everything.

First of all, the inspections are deeply flawed. Because Iran says, you cannot inspect military sites. So if you're the Iranian regime, where do you think you're going to do your weaponization? Where do you think you're going to do the other elements of a secret nuclear program? In military sites. But they say you can't inspect it.

This is one example of how flawed this deal is.

Secondly, look, Iran doesn't rush forward to make nuclear weapons because they can suffer crippling sanctions. That brought them to their senses last time, a number of times. Second, they also might think, correctly, that if they try to rush for a bomb, there will be countries that would prevent them.

I don't want to speak in the name of another country, but I guarantee you I speak in my name, we will not let them acquire a nuclear weapon.