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Media Analyses





LA Times Distorts Netanyahu's Speech on Iran


Paul Richter's Los Angeles Times article yesterday ("Netanyahu insists Iran can be forced to give up nuclear program") distorts the clearly stated message of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered by satellite link Sunday to the Saban Forum in Washington. While the prime minister repeatedly called for Iran to give up its nuclear military program, Richter doesn't bother with this distinction. He inaccurately reports that Netanyahu called for the dismantlement of Iran's "nuclear program," which also includes civilian aspects.
 
The article begins: "In a pointed rebuttal to President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Iran can be forced to shed its nuclear program and urged the imposition of new economic sanctions."
 
 
The headline too is inaccurate and misleading given that Netanyahu's position dealt specifically with Iran's military nuclear program. (In print, the headline was "Netanyahu says Iran can be made to halt nuclear program.")
 
The transcript for Netanyahu's speech is available here. The first half of the speech deals with U.S.-Israeli relations and the Palestinian issue. The second half, on Iran, appears below. All of the places in which Netanyahu addresses the need for the dismantlement of Iran's nuclear military program are in bold. Again, nowhere does he call for the dismantlement of Iran's nuclear program in its entirety.
Our best efforts to reach Palestinian-Israeli peace will come to nothing if Iran succeeds in building atomic bombs. A nuclear-armed Iran would give even greater backing to the radical and terrorist elements in the region. It would undermine the chances of arriving at a negotiated peace. I would say it would undermine those peace agreements that we have already reached with two of our neighbors.

Just three days ago Iran's representative to the U.N. reiterated the regime's refusal to even recognize Israel. This came a fortnight after the ruler of Iran referred to Israel as a "rabid dog" and to us as not worthy of being called human. He said we were doomed to "failure and annihilation". And earlier in November, Khamenei called Israel "an illegitimate and bastard regime". So the Iranian regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons makes these remarks more than a simple matter of "sticks and stones". People tend to discount rhetoric from rogue regimes, from radical regimes.

They said, well, it's just talk, but talk has consequences. We've learned that in history, especially when the regime that makes these statements is actually building the capability to carry it out.

This same regime supplies its terrorist proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with thousands of rockets, rockets that are aimed at Israeli civilians, rockets that are precision-guided munitions that are increasingly lethal and deadly. This is a regime committed to our destruction. And I believe there must be an unequivocal demand alongside the negotiations in Geneva for a change in Iranian policy. This must be part and parcel of the negotiations. In other words, I'm saying that what is required is not merely a shift and a diminution of Iran's capability and elimination of its capability to produce nuclear weapons, but also a demand to change its genocidal policy.
 
That is the minimal thing that the international community must do when it's negotiating with Iran.

And as you all know, it's not just about Israel. Iran continues to
trample the rights of its own people, to participate in the mass slaughter in Syria, to engage in terrorism across five continents and to destabilize regimes throughout the Middle East.

I don't think I can overstate, I don't think any of us can overstate the Iranian danger. So for the peace and security of the world, Iran must not be allowed to maintain the capability to produce nuclear weapons – not today and not tomorrow.The world must not allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear weapons state with the option to cross that threshold at a time of its choosing. Therefore, unlike the recent interim deal, any final deal must bring about the termination of Iran's military nuclear capability.

I have expressed my concern since before Geneva that the sanctions would begin to unravel. I heard today that Iran's president said that in fact the situation in Iran economically is already markedly improved since the accords were announced. They haven't even been put in place yet. So steps must be taken to prevent further erosion of the sanctions. Because ultimately, the sanctions remain an essential element of the international effort to compel Iran to dismantle its nuclear military infrastructure:
to take apart the centrifuges; to tear down the heavy water reactor; to eliminate the current stockpiles of enriched uranium; to cease the development of ballistic missiles and the work on weaponization, which by the way the Geneva agreement does not address.
 
None of these things that Iran insists it must have – none of them is necessary for a peaceful nuclear program
.

So while Israel is prepared to do what is necessary to defend itself, we share President Obama's preference to see Iran's nuclear weapons programend through diplomacy. But for diplomacy to succeed, it must be coupled with powerful sanctions and a credible military threat.

Now let me repeat that: A diplomatic solution is better than a military option. But a military option is necessary for diplomacy to succeed, as are powerful sanctions.

We all agree that after a couple of years of tough sanctions, Iran finally began to negotiate seriously. Because of the pressure, what seemed impossible yesterday became possible today. We should not assume that more and tougher sanctions won't lead to a better deal. What seems impossible today could become possible tomorrow.

My friends,

Preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability is the
paramount challenge of our generation because a nuclear-armed Iran would literally change the course of history.
 
It would threaten the peace and security of us all by arming the world's most dangerous regime with the world's most dangerous weapons. I think we've learned from history that regimes with unlimited appetites act out their fantasies and their made ideologies when they think they have the weapons of mass death or at least incalculable power.
 
That's what usually happens. Such power in the hands of such regimes unleashes the worst ambitions. It's not that they don't have diplomats – they do. They have diplomats, some of them even wear ties. They might speak English and they might make PowerPoint presentations where in the past they just spoke English and they spoke reasonably well. But when the powers behind the throne, the power on the throne is committed to a radical ideology and pursues it and talks about it again and again and again, then I say: Beware. We've learned in our experience, the experience of the Jewish people, to take seriously those who speak about our annihilation, and we will do and I will do what is necessary to protect the Jewish state and the future of the Jewish people.

 Our best efforts, mine and those of President Obama, have yet to achieve the desired results. The jury is still out. Iran is perilously close to crossing the nuclear threshold. History will judge all of us on whether we succeed or not in rising to meet this greatest of all challenges.
At least eight times in his speech, Netanyahu refers to "atomic bombs," "nuclear-armed" Iran, "nuclear weapons" and "military nuclear." Tellingly, at one point he refers to "a peaceful nuclear program," in the context of his call to dismantle Iran nuclear military infrastructure, centrifuges, heavy water reactor, stockpiles of enriched uranium and to "cease the development of ballistic missiles and the work on weaponization." None of these items which he would like to see dismantled are "necessary for a peaceful nuclear program," he said. He does not preclude the option of a peaceful nuclear program.
 
In short, in the Saban speech, Netanyahu repeatedly called for tearing down Iran's nuclear military infrastructure. He did not call for shedding Iran's nuclear program at large. This is a critical distinction, and it ought to be corrected. Versions of the article appeared in additional papers, including The Chicago Tribune, The Tampa Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun-Sentinel.
 
CAMERA has contacted editors at The Los Angeles Times. Stay tuned for updates.

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