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Netanyahu: Good morning. It’s a pleasure to welcome Federica Mogherini here in Jerusalem again, this time as the Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
We have a lot to discuss on foreign affairs and security since we are standing in the midst of pivotal events. I think the most important one before us is the possibility that Iran might become a threshold nuclear state. That would be a big mistake. If Iran is left with residual capacity to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb, ultimately this will destabilize the world – not just our region, not just pose a direct threat at Israel, whom Iran spells out for eradication, but also I think for all the Middle East and well beyond the Middle East.
I think this is something that should be prevented. Iran’s economy is susceptible to sanctions. It should be held to rigorous standards and I believe that making a bad deal, I think would endanger the entire world. Better no deal than a bad deal that leaves Iran with a capacity to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb.
The second challenge that we all face is the jihadist tide coming from the other side of militant Islam, that is militant Shiites led by Iran, who are working through proxies such as Hezbollah or the Khuti in Yemen and elsewhere, and of course backing also Sunnis, militant Sunnis like Hamas, who are attacking Israel.
I think that it’s very, very important to prevent the expansion of ISIS, to roll it back. I think it’s eminently possible. I applaud the efforts of the international community and I think the battle against ISIS should not come at the expense of the efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Both of them should be pursued independently and not linked to one another. It’s important that neither side in the militant Sunni-Shiite divide gets an advantage, and certainly it’s important that none of them, neither side, gets nuclear weapons. That would be a departure in history.
I have to say that we are welcoming you at a time when militant Islamic incitement is trying to fan violence in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem and especially on the Temple Mount, with the effort of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is the site of the Jewish temple; it’s the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque; it’s close to the sites of, holy sites of Christianity. And we are committed to maintaining the status quo for religious access to all faiths. We rigorously maintain that and we are faced with a consistent campaign of vilification and slander that presents Israel as seeking to undermine the mosque, to change the procedures that are there. This is absolutely not our policy. We stand behind the status quo arrangements that have been there for many years. We will not allow them to be changed either by action or by legislation. We’ve been very clear about that.
At the same time, we’ve watched with growing concern the fact that Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, including Hamas, including Abu Mazen, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, have joined in a campaign of inflammation, calling for any action, including violent action, to stop Jews from exercising their right to merely enter the Mount. This is an arrangement that has been there for many decades, since the Six Day War. We stand by the rights of Jews to go to the Mount. They pray in the Western Wall, but they do have a right to go there. We stand by the right of Muslims to go to the Mount and pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque. They’ve been doing that for many, many decades and will continue to do that. But we reject all this incitement to violence and we will do everything we can to restore calm and order.
Yesterday I spoke to King Abdullah of Jordan and we both agreed that we should work together to restore calm and to reject violence and incitement and I think that’s important. Jerusalem is a very sensitive issue. We treat it with sensitivity, but it’s also our capital and as such it is not a settlement, the neighborhoods in which we are living, Jews are living and we’ve been building, have been there for close to 50 years by successive Israeli governments. Everybody knows that in any peace arrangement they will remain part of Israel.
And equally I think that the bogus claim that this conflict that persists again and again and again because of this or that settlement is false because I believe that the issue is not about territory; it’s about our existence. It’s about the failure to recognize Israel in any boundary, in any border, in any configuration. That was and remains the core of this conflict, that is, the persistent refusal to recognize that the Jewish people have a right to a state of their own. The Palestinians expect us to recognize that they have a right to a state of their own, yet they say to the Jewish people who have been here for close to 4,000 years, from the time of Abraham: You do not have a right for a state of your own. That’s absurd.
To accord, as some European countries have, to accord recognition to a Palestinian state without demanding an equal recognition on their part to the nation-state of the Jewish people is irresponsible. To give recognition to a Palestinian state that doesn’t either recognize the Jewish state or agrees to security arrangements that are necessary for its security and survival is irresponsible. And I hope that a more balanced and more responsible arrangement pursues.
Israel is often vilified; Israel is often slandered; but we stand proud of our state, of our desire to have peace with our neighbors, any neighbor that wants a genuine peace, of our willingness to negotiate such a peace, of our policies keeping the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and of our firm determination to resist all violence and incitement. These are the elements of a genuine policy in the Middle East as it really is, not as we’d like to imagine it but as it really is. And what we need now is a partnership between all the moderate forces in the Middle East to join in retrieving peace, security and tranquility. I think that is something that everybody expects from us and certainly Israel is willing to engage in that effort, and I hope I can discuss with you how we can expand the supporters of that effort to Europe and well beyond Europe.
So I look forward to our discussions. Welcome.
Mogherini: Thank you, Prime Minister. It’s a pleasure for me to start from here. It’s my first trip outside of the European Union and there’s a reason for that, not only friendship that is there between Israel and the European Union, but also the fact that the new European leadership, the new Commission, has started this mandate, this five-years mandate with the slogan of a new start. And it would be good to have a new start also in this part of our region.
And so my message here is: Count on the European Union to build this new start. We have threats and challenges, more threats than challenges, in the region. It’s not only your threats and challenges, it’s also European interests to have stability and security and peace in this part of the region, and we are convinced that European Union can have a major role in supporting a solution.
It is true that never as now the situation has been more dangerous in this area, but this could also bring some opportunities in terms of regional framework. And I believe that the European Union is ready to support efforts in this direction. It would be good if we all managed to lower tensions, verbal and on the ground. What is happening and what has happened here in Jerusalem in the last week is extremely worrying. It is also worrying that after the ceasefire was reached in Cairo in August, we are still having difficulties in advancing with the direct talks. We would encourage, European Union would always encourage direct talks, not unilateral steps on both sides, to find the solution of the two states: Israel living in full security, not only solving the Palestinian issue, but also with the Arab neighbors and we believe there is a potential there to explore in this months, and the Palestinians having a state, a proper state.
Any step that goes in that direction will have the full support of the European Union in concrete terms, not taking one side but helping the process and supporting the process. Security and peace for all in this region is crucial for the European interests, not only for our values that are shared. And I’m also looking forward to fruitful discussion, but especially for working together in the coming years.