Netanyahu has been firm in his opinion that dismantling Iran’s nuclear program is the best way to prevent Iran from developing an atomic bomb. And the six world powers currently negotiating with Tehran, which includes Germany, have demanded that significant cuts be made to Iran’s nuclear program.
At the press conference Netanyahu was asked whether the other world powers would accept his position, ABC News reported that he replied “probably not.”
“They talked about the possibility of some enrichment and I think it’s a mistake,” Netanyahu said. “If the world is serious about having Iran with civilian nuclear energy and not having Iran with military nuclear capability, then they don’t need any enrichment, and they don’t need any centrifuges.”.
Merkel, who was sitting beside Netanyahu, said that the current situation was not ideal, but that it was preferred over allowing Iran to continue to charge forward with its program unchecked.
“Clearly, there is a different way of looking at this, whether these negotiations should be conducted. We have decided to take this path, that enrichment is only taking place at a low level, but enrichment is taking place,” she said.
ABC explained that the talks are designed to build upon “a first-step deal that commits Iran to initial nuclear curbs in return for some easing of sanctions. The deal can be extended by mutual consent after six months.”
Also discussed at the conference was the matter of boycotts. According to Haaretz,Merkel also said that while she does not support boycotts of Israel, but that Germany is still obligated to follow the guidelines of the European Union, which require the labeling of any goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
While Israel and Germany may not always see eye-to-eye on Israeli settlements, Merkel said that she hopes the two nations can overcome such disagreements, according to Haaretz. And, as the Associated Press noted, Merkel reiterated Berlin’s opposition to Israeli settlements on occupied land where the Palestinians seek statehood.
In response, Netanyahu said that boycotts of Israel will only make the prospect of peace in the Middle East more remote and will harm not just the Palestinian economy but Palestinians working in Israeli settlements as well.
Netanyahu said that there can be criticism of Israel, but that those who are calling for the boycott against Israel don’t call for boycotts against any other country. He claimed that the only democracy in the Middle East is being singled out.
Netanyahu added that he hopes other European leaders follow in Merkel’s footsteps on the boycott issue, but said any EU boycott against Israel would push it toward other global markets interested in Israeli technology.
While discussing the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to secure a framework agreement for Israeli-Palestinian peace, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu “reiterated his support for a two-state solution – and his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state. Merkel said she supports Kerry’s efforts, and emphasized that Germany backs Israel’s security demands in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.”
As for pricklier issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Netanyahu said the Islamic Republic is continuing to pursue nuclear weapons. He also repeated his position on the matter, saying he believes in zero enrichment, zero centrifuges and zero plutonium in Iran. He added that other nations in the Middle East agree with him on this issue, but avoid publicly stating such agreement.
For her part, Merkel agreed with the Israeli prime minister that a nuclear Iran is indeed a threat – both to Israel and Europe, which could be targeted by Iran’s ballistic missile program. But Merkel did stop short of endorsing Netanyahu’s demand that Tehran give up all sensitive nuclear projects under any negotiated deal with world powers.
Netanyahu also said that Merkel’s visit to Israel attests to the strength of Israeli-German relations and that, under her leadership, Germany has demonstrated a firm commitment to Israeli security.
Merkel , along with most of her cabinet, arrived in Israel on Monday for two days of joint cabinet consultations. Her visit marks nearly 50 years of bilateral ties with Israel.
During her visit, Merkel was also presented with Israel’s highest civilian award by President Shimon Peres on Tuesday for her “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and the fight against anti-Semitism and racism.”
The Daily Mail noted that Germany is Israel’s most important European ally, which “makes Merkel’s views a bellwether of European sentiment on Middle East issues.”