Netanyahu: Israel's top problem is "Iran, Iran, Iran"
Former Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discusses Israel's national security and U.S. foreign policy ahead of a critical election. Netanyahu spoke to Fox News Digital following the release of his new memoir "Bibi: My Story."
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the United States to reconsider a nuclear deal with Iran as any funds could end up helping Russia sustain its invasion of Ukraine.
"I believe that we should place heavy sanctions on Iran, and those who advocate lifting the sanctions, which is what this nuclear deal would do if it ever gets signed, would bring hundreds of billions of dollars not only to Iran, but to Russia's coffers as well," Netanyahu told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview.
"So the people are saying, 'Let's take a tough stance against Russia' – [it’s] actually taking a soft stance when they are willing to lift the sanctions on Iran," added Netanyahu, who just released his memoir, "Bibi: My Story." "I'd be a lot more consistent on that."
Israel’s election in two weeks will decide whether Netanyahu will return as prime minister after he narrowly lost the seat two years to a coalition of opposition parties. Netanyahu says that he approaches an election "assuming" that he will lose, but current polls show a slight majority in his favor. Israelis will go to the polls on November 1st.
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Netanyahu said that his first point of business, should he return as prime minister, would be to "complete the circle of peace" he started with Arab nations when he and then-President Trump initiated four peace deals that comprised the Abraham Accords, and the next phase would be to bring in Saudi Arabia.
Former President Donald Trump meets with then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ((AP Photo/Alex Brandon))
"The Abraham Accords would not have taken place without tacit Saudi approval," Netanyahu explained. "I will tell you also that two years before the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2018, Saudi Arabia opened up its skies, its airspace to flights from Israel to the Gulf countries: Hundreds of thousands of Israelis crisscrossed Saudi airspace to land in Dubai and Abu Dhabi or in Bahrain."
"Obviously, there was a readiness there for progress," he added.
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But he stressed that the biggest problem facing Israel today is "Iran, Iran, Iran," and that "all other challenges pale in comparison."
"If we are threatened by a regime that calls for our destruction, that is armed with the weapons of mass death, that's something I'm committed to [handling]," he said.
The cover of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's new memoir, which covers his military service, work in politics and insights from his career. (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)
Netanyahu claimed that peace in the Middle East and progress toward further peace deals rest on Israel's willingness to confront Iran. Part of that opposition includes rejecting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, which he called a policy aimed at "containing a nuclear Iran" rather than one that could "prevent" a nuclear Iran.
"That is a tragic mistake for the world and for America," Netanyahu stressed. "Don't let the ayatollahs have nuclear weapons. Don't let them become a threshold state that can be weeks away from developing nuclear weapons."
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"If you have to face up to them, face up to them, because later, when they have nuclear weapons, it'll be a lot tougher to do, as you can discover from unfolding events elsewhere in the world," he added.
Iran's activities have started expanding beyond the Middle East, now that Russia has started making use of Iran's Shahed-136 drone, and Tehran has sent Revolutionary Guard Corps members to train Russian troops in the weapons' use - a partnership Netanyahu called "horrible."
FILE - This undated photograph released by the Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. As protests rage at home, Iran's theocratic government is increasingly flexing its military muscle abroad. That includes supplying drones to Russia that now kill Ukrainian civilians, running drills in a border region with Azerbaijan and bombing Kurdish positions in Iraq. (Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File) (Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)
"I think it's horrible, and yes, we would counter these drones," Netanyahu said. "They actually try to infiltrate Israeli airspace with these drones, and [we] shut them down. They would use them with happy abandon if they could, but we take measures against them."
"But it just tells you … two things, really, about this regime," he continued. "One is the use of these deadly drones against civilians, which Iran has willingly allowed to happen; and, secondly, look at what is happening in Iran itself – when people were thinking of giving Iran a nuclear deal that was essentially paving the way with hundreds of billions of dollars to build a nuclear arsenal, to build the ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missiles to nuclear warheads … to a regime that oppresses its people."
Netanyahu took the chance to speak highly of the people of Iran – "especially the brave women" – protesting against the regime in the wake of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini's death.
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"They're saying, 'We want our freedom, we want the freedom to decide what we put out, what we want on our heads, on what we say, how we live," he said. "What courage. What an indomitable spirit."
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.