“I don’t tell the president of the U.S. who he should meet and who he shouldn’t meet,” said the Israeli prime minister.
By World Israel News Staff
A week after a report emerged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “frantically” worked to assure that U.S. President Donald Trump would not be lured into meeting Iran’s foreign minister, Netanyahu has told reporters he does not dictate to U.S. presidents with whom they should or should not hold talks.
“I don’t tell the president of the U.S. who he should meet and who he shouldn’t meet. But I am sure that Trump will take a much more open-eyed and a tougher stance against Iran,” said the Israeli prime minister on Thursday.
The possibility of a Trump encounter with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was raised by French President Emmanuel Macron, who as host of the G7 summit in late August invited Zarif to the summit, but a Trump-Zarif meeting did not materialize.
Still, Israeli officials believe that the U.S. president might agree to hold talks with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York later in September. Trump has not ruled it out.
Iranian leaders say they want U.S. sanctions lifted.
“I don’t know when such a meeting would be, but if it happened, Trump would be tougher and more clear-thinking than [the US] was before,” said Netanyahu as he met in London with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
He said that the difference between the current president and Barack Obama, whose administration negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran together with five other world powers, is that Trump’s “basis for a meeting” with Iran would be on what the U.S. and Israel agree: “that the deal was terrible, that the deal didn’t deal with key issues.”
Netanyahu acknowledged that “a meeting between Trump and Rouhani is a possibility.”
However, on Thursday morning, before flying to the U.K., Netanyahu told reporters on the tarmac at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport that “this is not the time to hold talks with Iran; this is the time to increase the pressure on Iran.”
The Trump administration has raised the possibility of renegotiating the nuclear deal.
Principles outlined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo include: stopping Iranian uranium enrichment, granting the U.N. nuclear watchdog full access to all sites in Iran, ending Iranian proliferation of ballistic missiles, and halting further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.
Israel and the U.S. also want Tehran to end support for such terror groups as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, withdraw all forces under Iran’s command throughout Syria, and stop threatening to destroy Israel.