Israel’s Netanyahu urges Obama to maintain Iran sanctions

President Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Monday.
(Charles Dharapak / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Obama to maintain economic sanctions against Iran and even prepare to increase them if Tehran does not give up its military nuclear program during the search for a diplomatic solution.

“It is Israel’s firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened,” Netanyahu told Obama in the Oval Office as reporters listened in. “It’s the combination, I believe, that has guided your policy and our policy so far. ... A credible military threat and strong sanctions, I think, is still the only formula that can get a peaceful resolution of this problem.”

Obama said he told the Israeli leader that conciliatory language by Iran’s new leaders, and the resumption of stalled diplomatic talks, will not be enough to ease sanctions.

“We have to test diplomacy,” Obama said. “We have to see if in fact they are serious about their willingness to abide by international norms and international law and international requirements and resolutions, and we in good faith will approach them, indicating that it is our preference to resolve these issues diplomatically. But we enter into these negotiations very clear-eyed.”


Unlike some past meetings, when the Israeli leader seemed disdainful of Obama, Netanyahu repeatedly expressed thanks and appreciation to Obama for his policy in the Middle East. He called Obama “committed” to the goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

He credited Obama’s support for maintaining a military threat and the pressure of sanctions for bringing Iran to the negotiating table.

But just two days after Obama spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the telephone — the first conversation between the two nations’ leaders since 1979 — Netanyahu came on a special mission to Washington to emphasize concerns about Iran’s real intentions.


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