The calls that have been coming from European countries, from European parliaments, to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state have pushed peace backwards.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Foreign Minister Steinmeier, welcome to Jerusalem once again. It’s always a pleasure to see you and to talk to you. You’re a friend of Israel. Chancellor Merkel is a friend of Israel and Germany is a friend of Israel.
We are faced with two great challenges. One is security and the other is peace. They’re intertwined.
The greatest threat to our mutual security is Iran’s quest to acquire the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons. I say this on the eve of the resumption of talks between the P5+1 and Iran. Iran wants to achieve a threshold nuclear status without giving up its sanctions, the sanctions that are pressing on its economy. I think to award it that status, to give Iran the capacity to enrich uranium in short order would be a colossal mistake. I think it would move security and peace away. It would also make it very difficult to achieve a diplomatic solution because Iran would have the capacity to break to a nuclear bomb or to sneak to a nuclear bomb within a matter of a few months or even less than that and that is something that would threaten everyone. It would be bad for Israel, bad for Europe and bad for the peace of the world.
We’ve been consulting, our governments, together, as we’ve been doing with the other members of the P5+1 and I believe that the alternative to a bad deal is not war but continued sanctions, which will make Iran dismantle its capacity to make nuclear weapons and certainly the enriched uranium that is the core of the weapon. Equally I don’t have to remind you and our European friends that the ICBMs, the inter-continental ballistic missiles, that Iran has developed are not intended for Israel. They’re intended for Europe and the United States, and their only purpose is to carry a nuclear payload. So Iran must not have the capacity to develop or enrich uranium for a bomb, to manufacture the weapon to make a bomb, or the means to carry a bomb. And this is something that I think is the most important security challenge of our time.
It is important to defeat ISIL and we support the effort that President Obama is leading, but I repeat once again that to defeat ISIL but leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state is to win the battle and lose the war and we cannot afford to lose this war.
The second challenge that we face is the achievement of peace between Israel and our Palestinian neighbors. This has been made more difficult by the continual incitement from the Palestinian Authority. I met, as you know, last Thursday with King Abdullah of Jordan and Secretary Kerry in Amman. We called for a lowering of the tensions. We called for a cessation of incitement that leads to violence. I made it clear once again that Israel is absolutely committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and I am glad that this was reiterated also publicly but my interlocutors. Yet less than 24 hours after that meeting, the Palestinian Authority media, controlled media, called for what they called ‘a day of rage’ in Jerusalem, which further incites violence.
So what we need to have is a cessation of this incitement. It comes both from the radical Islamic groups and Hamas, but unfortunately also from the Palestinian Authority. It’s on this background I think that the calls that have been coming from European countries, from European parliaments, to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state have pushed peace backwards because they don’t tell the Palestinians that they have to make their peace with a nation-state for the Jewish people. They just give the Palestinians a nation-state. They don’t tell the Palestinian Authority that they will have to make genuine compromises and take seriously Israel’s legitimate security concerns. They merely award the Palestinians a prize without asking them at all to make the concessions that are necessary for a genuine peace.
I believe that such a peace is possible only if there are compromises on all sides and not unilateral actions and unilateral advantages that accrue to the Palestinian side, which is in fact engaged in continuing incitement. I know that your goal and our goal is the achievement of a genuine and defensible peace. There is no other peace that will hold in the Middle East. A peace that cannot be defended will not last. We seek something that will last and something that will give security for Israel, our Palestinian neighbors and the region. And for that, we have to make sure that Iran does not become a nuclear threshold state and that the Palestinians cease the incitement for the eradication of the State of Israel.
I look forward to discussing these and many other issues between us.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: Well, thank you, Mr. Prime Minister for your kind invitation and for your time in these busy days.
When we met for the last time in July here in Jerusalem, we agreed that we have to prepare our next years in which we are celebrating the 50 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. Hopefully we are able to do that and the preparations are nearly done now in late 2014, but I hope that there is time in the next year because the times are again very difficult in these days and we are concerned. We’re concerned looking to the region during the last two weeks with some new attacks and victims and our worry was in the last week that the really difficult political conflict is turning into religious dimensions. So I think it’s, it was high time to meet in Amman and congratulations. I think this meeting was really not only supportive, but the main condition that the situation is much more calm now.
That was a very important step from our point of view and hopefully encouraging for further steps in the next weeks and months. I think we agree that Egypt has done a very encouraging job by the mediation of a ceasefire. Unfortunately the negotiations are suspended for reasons which everybody knows here in the room. I hope that there is a chance for renewing the negotiations because I think we on the same line by saying that only returning to the status quo after the last Gaza war is not sufficient. We must step forward and hopefully we have very soon conditions that the negotiations are being able to be continued.
Secondly, the ceasefire is that what the region is needing, but that is not sufficient in the longer perspective. As you were saying, there is a need for security and we understand the security concerns here in Israel and perspective for peace.
My understanding is there will be no other way as to reach this situation of respecting the needs for security on the one side and developing a perspective for peace in the long-run, there is no other way beside and beyond negotiations. That is the signal I gave in my talks in Ramallah and this is the signal and what I am saying here. Unilateral activities I think are not creating the ground, the atmosphere, in which perhaps another approach, another initiative from our American friends will be successful.
So therefore I hope that we are able to create these conditions and concerning Iran, be sure there will not be a bad agreement. There will be a responsible agreement or no agreement, and I just were talking to your people. We are not yet there. We are prepared for the final round at the end of the month in Vienna, but you know, on the working level we are not yet there, so therefore we are trying really hard to have an agreement that is very clear in this one and important issue: that Iran has not any access to nuclear weapons.