Statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Senator Lindsey Graham

December 27, 2014

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Prime Minister Netanyahu:
Senator Graham, it’s a pleasure to see you again in Jerusalem.

You’re a frequent and welcome visitor, and I want to thank you for all the work that you have been doing for the US-Israel strategic partnership and for the support for Iron Dome which has saved many lives.

You’ve been a stalwart champion of our relationship and just indefatigable and consistent supporter of the State of Israel, and I thank you for that.

It’s meant from the heart and the mind. And the heart and the mind tell us that we are now faced with two great challenges. The first comes from the Palestinians. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat, has compared Israel to ISIS. This is the same Palestinian Authority that joins hands with Hamas, incites constantly against Israel, the kind of incitement that has led to an attack that we witnessed just two days ago of a Molotov cocktail thrown at a little girl, and I commend our security forces for apprehending the terrorists. But the same Palestinian Authority is going to try to bring to the UN Security Council a resolution that seeks to impose on us conditions that will undermine our security. And I want to assure you that we will stand firmly and reject such a dictate. We always have; we always will.
The second great challenge comes from Iran. Iran today conducted an exercise with a suicide drone. I don’t have to convince you, Senator, that the most important task before us is to prevent this dangerous regime from having nuclear weapons. And I believe that what is required are more sanctions, and stronger sanctions. And I welcome your leadership in this effort. I think this is something that is important for the peace of the world. You know, there are moments in history when nations have to stand firm. Israel stands firm on both sides, and on both issues.
And I welcome you again to Jerusalem.

Senator Graham:
Thank you very much.

I’ll do this in English rather than Hebrew, if that’s okay with you?

[PM: We’re open for surprises.]

It would be a very short news conference.

Number one: I wanted to come here in the most desperate way before the new Congress reconvenes, to let you and the people of Israel know that the United States Congress, above all entities in America, has your back in a very bipartisan way.

The Republican Party now runs the House and the Senate, and things will be a bit different. But one thing will be constant: There will be bipartisan support in the areas you just outlined.

I’d like to let the people of Israel know, during the recent conflict with Hamas, there were resolutions sponsored by Republicans and Democrats that passed unanimously, saying there is no moral equivalent between the tactics of Hamas and the IDF.

[PM: So you don’t agree with the chief Palestinian negotiator…]

I do not agree with the UN Human Right Commission; I do not agree with the chief Palestinian negotiator. I agree with the Prime Minister of Israel when he says that the Hamas regime does everything they can to kill children, and the IDF does everything they can to avoid killing Palestinian children. They fire rockets and hope they land in schools; you attack the enemy trying to avoid collateral damage to civilians.
The Congress clearly sees the difference between the tactics of Hamas and the democracy called Israel, and the international community seems to be a bit confused.

So here’s what you can expect in January when the new Congress reconvenes: Mr. Prime Minister, of all the leaders in the entire world, you’ve had the most consistent message regarding Iran: Beware of the Iranians – they lie, they cheat. To those who believe the Iranians have not been trying to develop a nuclear weapon, if you come to America, you should not be allowed to drive on our highways. Clearly, this regime for years has been deceiving the international community, has been trying to pursuit, in my view, a nuclear weapon.

I would love nothing better than a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear ambitions. I support the Administration’s effort to try to bring this to a peaceful conclusion. But you, above all others, have said that sanctions are what got Iran to the table, and it will be the only thing that brings them to a deal that we can all live with.

I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead. In January of next year, there will be a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan sanction legislation that says, if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed; if Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed. It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well.
So we will be following your counsel and advice. Congress will pursue sanctions for the bigger.

I also have legislation with Senator Corker, that I believe will be bipartisan, and it says the following: If there’s a deal between the P5+1 regarding the Iranian nuclear program, it must come to the Congress for our approval before sanctions can be lifted permanently, as a check and balance against a bad deal.

I hope and pray that we can end the nuclear ambitions of Iran peacefully, but the one thing I tell the American public, when you hear a deal between the P5+1 and Iran – think North Korea. The last time the international community tried to control a rogue regime’s nuclear ambitions, it resulted in a nuclear armed North Korea. What started as a small enrichment capability to be monitored by the United Nations, resulted in multiple nuclear weapons being procured by one of the most dangerous regimes in the world – North Korea.

I fear above all else, Mr. Prime Minister, that if a deal was done between the P5+1 that allows an enrichment capability to be given to the Ayatollahs in Iran, that we will suffer the same fate.

You will see a very vigorous Congress, when it comes to Iran. You will see a Congress making sure sanctions are real and will be re-imposed at the drop of a hat. You will see Congress wanting to have a say about any final deal.

As to the United Nations and the Congress, you will see the following: There will be a violent pushback if there’s any effort by the UN Security Council to set the terms of peace negotiations, avoiding direct talks. President Obama in 2011 said the United Nations was not the right venue when it came to discussing the peace process in reaching a two-state solution.

I agree with what President Obama said in 2011. Any effort by the French, the Jordanians or anyone to avoid direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the peace process, anyone who tries to take this to the UN Security Council, there will be a violent backlash by the Congress that could include suspending funding to the United Nations.

We will not sit back and allow the United Nations to take over the peace process. So on behalf of the American Congress, the people of South Carolina, I’m honored to be in your country yet again. And what brings me here so many times, is common and shared values and common and shared enemies.

The fate of one country determines the fate of the other.

God bless the people of Israel, and you can count on the United States Congress, Republican and Democrat, to be there for you when you need us the most.