Meet the Press   |  October 20, 2013

2: Netanyahu on Iran, Syria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Meet the Press to discuss his country's relations with Iran and Syria.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and we are back. joining me now the prime minister of israel , benjamin netanyahu . mr. netanyahu, welcome back to "meet the press."

>> thank you. it's good to be with you, david.

>> i want to start where i ended with secretary jack lew, talking about the iran nuclear threat. before i ask about sanctions, let me ask you broadly. here you have this meeting going on with western powers and the united states and president aroni of iran . why can't this be seen as progress? iranians making concessions, conversations moving forward?

>> it could be. it depends how these conversations end up. we had conversations in 2005 with north korea and everybody hoped it would produce a stark result. as it turns out, they did produce a stark result, a bad one. iran detonated its nuclear explosive devices. you don't want that repeating. the question is not of hope, the question is of actual results and the test is the result. the result has to be the full dismantling of iran's nuclear program . if that's achieved, that's good. if it's achieved peacefully, even better.

>> what is it that iran is actually offering? what are they prepared to do? your position is clear. stop enrichment of uranium because that's how you get a nuclear weapon . that's how you dismantle iran's nuclear program . what was striking to me about my conversation with secretary lew was also reported by the "new york times" this week, and let me show with regard to sanctions and how they could be eased. the headline " white house weighs easing iran 's sanction bite." the obama administration, in the wake of a promising first round of nuclear diplomacy with iran is weighing a proposal to ease the pain of sanctions on tehran by offering it access to billions of dollars in frozen funds if the iranian government curbs its program. do you think that's true, do you think iran is ready to ease sanctions before iran goes far enough to dismantling its nuclear program ?

>> my policy has been consistent, and it's been consistent for close to 20 years. this is my third term as prime minister, so i've been dealing with the subject a long time. i think the pressure has to be maintained on iran , increased on iran , until it actually stops the nuclear program , that is, dismantles it. i think any partial deal could end up dissolving the sanctions. there are a lot of countries just waiting for a signal to get rid of their sanctions regime. and i think you don't want to go through halfway measures. syria just committed to fully dismantling its chemical weapons program. suppose syria said, well, we're going to dismantle 20% of it and give the ease of sanctions because of that. nobody would buy that. that's exactly what iran is trying to do. they're trying to get a partial deal that they know could end up dissolving the sanctions regime and would keep them with the nuclear weapons capability. so i don't advise doing that. as far as the freezing of assets, as far as i remember, those assets were frozen for three reasons. one, iran 's terrorist actions. two, its aggressive actions, particularly in the gulf. and three, its continued refusal to stop the production of weapons of mass production -- mass destruction . you know, if you get all three done and they stop doing it, well, then i suppose you could unfreeze them.

>> do you support republicans in congress right now who are actually pushing for tougher sanctions before you get to any potential easing? tougher tansanctions to put that much more pain on the iranians to force that much for of a concession?

>> i'm not going to get into specific action. certainly not how i've always dealt with it. it's a national, and in my view, an international issue. those sanctions weren't israeli sanctions. i've always advocated them, but the international community adopted very firm resolutions by the security council . and here's what those resolutions said. they should iran should basically dismantle its centrifuge and stop work on its heavy plutonium water reactor. it's very important to stress that it's for nuclear weapons . nobody has challenged iran 's or any countries pursuit of nuclear energy . but several of your neighbors, including canada and mexico, have very robust programs for nuclear energy . they don't have centrifuges and they don't have heavy water reactors. they've had oil and gas coming out of their ear for generations, but suppose you believe them. and then they say, why do you suppose i keep those things, and the answer is because they want the ability to make nuclear weapons . i propose sticking by that. that's the way to peacefully end iran 's nuclear weapons .

>> let me ask you quickly about syria . having just been to the region, being on the israeli border with syria and tracking the fact that you have an opposition in syria that is being infused by sunni jihadist groups on the border. do you not, when you think about the security of israel and the region, would you prefer to have assad remain in power?

>> no, i certainly don't. i don't think assad is in power, i think iran is in power. because basically syria has become an iranian protectorate. iran 's henchmen are doing the fighting for assad for his army, to the extent he has an army. so understand that syria is iran and iran is syria as things have developed. now, of course, we have the other option which is no less appetizing, which is equally unappetizing, which is the first jihad, al qaeda , uthra. one would hope we could find a third way to give the syrian people , first of all, some life. they are undergoing a who tribble tr -- horrible tragedy. i saw a documentary the other day about syrian girls who are selling themselves, basically, to get something to eat for their families, refugee girls, and the displacement of millions of people and the death of over 100,000 people. by the way, iran participates as we speak in the mass slaughter of hundreds of -- or, rather, thousands of men, women and children in syria . i think we want to end that tragedy. we want to end that in the best way that we don't have an iranian protectorate or regime in afghanistan in syria .

>> prime minister netanyahu, thank you so much for your time this morning. i appreciate it.

>> thank you. thank you, david.

>>> coming up here, back to politics and the budget fight fallout. the future of obama care. why some say the internal divide among republicans might actually hurt the party in next year's midterm elections. our political roundtable is back in