Netanyahu Says UN Must Not Ease Economic Sanctions Against Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said economic sanctions against Iran must not be relaxed. Photographer: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran is capable of enriching uranium to nuclear weapon strength whenever it chooses and pledged again that Israel will make sure it doesn’t cross that threshold.

Speaking on the eve of renewed international negotiations in Geneva over Iran’s disputed nuclear program, Netanyahu said economic sanctions against the Persian Gulf country must not be relaxed.

“It would be a historic mistake now to ease the pressure on Iran just before they achieve their aim,” Netanyahu said today at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem. “We must remember that it was international pressure that led to internal change in Iran, that brought the Iranians to make any concessions and to the negotiating table.”

The speech follows the Israeli leader’s Oct. 1 address to the United Nations General Assembly in which he denounced Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and warned the world body to “distrust” Rouhani’s declaration that Iran won’t produce nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu, 63, made similar points during a Sept. 30 White House meeting with President Barack Obama, who had earlier spoken on the phone with Rouhani, in the highest-level contact between the two countries since Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979.

“Contrary to the accepted opinion, an easing of pressure won’t strengthen the moderate forces in Iran,” Netanyahu said. “It will strengthen the uncompromising stance” of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, “and be seen as a real victory for him.”

Netanyahu added: “There is no doubt that nuclear arms in the hands of Iran will first be directed at us and therefore Israel will not allow Iran to achieve” weapons production.

Turning to Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said his government is making a “sincere effort to reach a peace agreement.” He said any peace treaty must include Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and represent a final resolution to all aspects of the conflict.