JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday in the first of three meetings with European leaders. The next stop is France to meet with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, followed by British Prime Minister Teresa May.
Before boarding his flight for Berlin Monday, Netanyahu told reporters he will raise two issues in the meetings: “Iran and Iran.”
Netanyahu has been one of the most outspoken critics of the US-led Iranian nuclear deal signed in July 2015. US President Donald Trump’s decision last month to withdraw from the deal drew praise from Israel and criticism from other world leaders, especially in Europe.
In a joint statement with Chancellor Merkel, Netanyahu raised both these issues.
“First of all, there is the need to continue the pressure on Iran against its nuclear program. I believe that this pressure should be increased,” Netanyahu said, adding that he hoped these meetings would bring closer agreement between them.
“The second is blocking Iran’s aggression in the region, especially its attempts to establish a military presence against us in Syria and attack us from there,” he said, adding that it’s “…a good thing that I have a very personal, close and very good connection with them [his German, French and British counterparts]. This is important for the State of Israel.”
“Just yesterday, Iran’s leader [Ali Ayatollah] Khamenei, yesterday he said again that Israel is a cancer that has to be eradicated, will be eradicated from the earth.
“This is amazing that in the beginning of the 21st century, somebody talks about destroying Israel. It means destroying another 6 million plus Jews. It’s quite extraordinary that this goes on, but this is what we face.”
Following their opening statements, they took questions from reporters on a wider range of subjects, including the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, and the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Chancellor Merkel wrapped up the statement with these remarks:
“For us, the right of existence of the State of Israel is part of our raison d’etre as a state, and you have seen that the prime minister says every day this right of existence of the State of Israel is put into question by certain forces, for example Hamas.
“We agree to disagree on certain issues, for example the settlement policy, but the right of existence of Israel is certainly under threat every day.
“This is why we are partners. This is why also when this is about, for example, state-of-the-art technology, we shall act and do trade with Israel, also as regards drones. They are actually doing an excellent job in Mali on securing the safety of our soldiers there on the ground. Thank you very much.”