We are threatened by an extremist form of Islam, headed by Tehran, which sends out its tentacles in the form of Hamas and Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations, which undermine the very existence of the State of Israel and speak openly about their desire to destroy it.
This is not just a threat against Israel, but against the entire world. This is a threat against world peace. It certainly is a threat to us, but Iran’s armament threatens the entire Middle East and world peace for a great many reasons. Here is one: some leaders of important nations have been saying publicly over the past several weeks and months that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, they will also develop nuclear weapons. If a nuclear arms race begins in the Middle East, who knows how it will end? The nuclearization of Iran is a threat to the peace of the entire world.
I said these things this month to President Sarkozy, who is also the President of the Security Council. I said the same things to President Obama when I met him in Washington and more recently when I spoke to Secretary of State Clinton several days ago. I said the same things to Angela Merkel whom I saw during my visit to Germany. I said the same things to Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy. I said the same things to President Medvedev in Moscow and yesterday to Prime Minister Putin.
I will say the same things to you today – Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is a threat to the entire world.
From the outset, my government has worked so that this idea would become entrenched in the world’s consciousness. I found all the countries I mentioned and their leaders willing to hear us out on this matter.
Now that there is an understanding that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, this argument has ended. If one year ago we were in a situation in which Iran’s true intentions to acquire nuclear weapons were unclear, that the ultimate goal of the Iranian nuclear program was a weapon, today there is no argument that this is the case. As long as Iran advances this program, the argument as to how much longer it will take them to achieve their goal will also fade away. It won’t take them long. There is also understanding about the character of the regime, which was exposed during the recent elections. That too had not been clear; people thought it was a popular populist regime. It is not populist and it is not popular. It is a regime that is hated by the people. They may be able to artificially fill up a square, but there are tens of millions of people in Iran, the vast majority, aspiring to one thing – freedom from this brutal tyranny.
The character of this regime was exposed and their secret nuclear program was exposed. The danger threatening the entire Middle East was exposed – Arab and Jewish alike, but not just Arabs and Jews. Everything has been exposed. Everything is clear. Now the question is what the international community will do in the face of this challenge.
First there must be understanding. However, after understanding there must be a conclusion. And after the conclusion, action must be taken by the international community. They are currently discussing sanctions. I spoke about sanctions with all the leaders with whom I met. I quoted to each of them the words of Hillel the Elder from 2,000 years ago: “If not now, when?” If crippling sanctions are not imposed on Iran now, when will they be? In a year? Two? When? If not now, when? I say now.
Superficial sanctions, toothless ones – what good will they do? What is the purpose of sanctions? The purpose is to make a difference, to make this regime stop its nuclear program. If the sanctions don’t have teeth, what influence will they have? Just to be able to check off that sanctions were imposed?
Time is growing short. There must be forceful sanctions now. I will tell you what sanctions with teeth are. They are a range of things, but they must include sanctions in the energy field. Iran’s economy is mainly based on the energy market, in export and import of energy products. If sanctions include preventing the export of gasoline and, equally important, the importation of petroleum products, Iran’s economy will be stopped.
Forceful sanctions must include steps to stop the importation of petroleum products to Iran and the export of energy. I promise you, this will make a difference. I cannot say with certainty that it will work, but I can say with certainty that superficial, weak, toothless sanctions, even if they are imposed, will not do the job. A combination of what I just said, sanctions in the energy field, is something else entirely.
If not now, when? Now. There must be forceful sanctions stopping the importation of refined petroleum products and the export of gasoline. I hope the international community will rise to the occasion. I hope they understand the magnitude of this moment, this historic moment in time when the responsible countries of the world, which already understand the magnitude of the threat and the short period of time we have left, will do what is necessary.
Leaders must make difficult decisions at decisive moments, because otherwise they should not be leaders. Three weeks after I was elected Prime Minister of Israel the first time, I was asked to speak before both houses of Congress in Washington. I spoke then, 14 years ago, about the nuclear threat. I said at the time that the greatest threat to humanity and to my country was Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. I remember that 14 years ago, many people expressed doubt.