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A Conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu

Speaker: Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Israel
Presider: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
July 8, 2010

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Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on July 8, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed U.S.-Israel relations, the threat of a nuclear Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the possibility of extending a temporary settlement freeze in the West Bank.

Netanyahu was unclear on whether or not he will extend a ten-month moratorium on settlement expansion in the West Bank beyond the September deadline. When asked, he said: "I think we've done enough. Let's go on with talks." Yet Netanyahu was cautious when assessing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's ability to achieve a final status agreement. "I will not do what some of my colleagues do to President Abbas," Netanyahu said, "I won't rule out the possibility of leadership."

On the subject of Iran and its uranium enrichment program, which Israel regards as a grave threat, Netanyahu was supportive of recent Obama administration moves. "The statement that the president has made that all options are on the table is probably the most effective pressure that you could direct at Iran," Netanyahu said, addressing the possibility of using military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. "They have in the past backed off when they thought the U.S. would act in a more forceful way."

Addressing recent strains in U.S.-Israel relations, Netanyahu emphasized Israel's strategic value to the United States. "In the heart of the Middle East, Israel is the source of the greatest stability," he said, "the service that Israel does in the Middle East is below the swirl of public debate, is real and much appreciated by the governments that are actually acting to stabilize the Middle East, chief among them the United States."

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