March 8th, 2015
03:08 PM ET

Amb. Dermer on Iran: ". . .when Israelis and Arabs are on the same page, people should pay attention."

On today’s State of the Union, host Michael Smerconish sat down with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer to discuss U.S./Israeli relations and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to congress. Also discussed were the ongoing negotiations concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Text highlights, video, and a transcript of the discussion are below

 MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

Contact: KIMBERLY / Kimberly.elchlepp@turner.com / www.CNNPressroom.com

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Dermer on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech interfering in U.S. politics: Well, hindsight is always 20/20 and we regret very much that there was a perception, a partisanship before the speech. That was the last thing we wanted to do was inject Israel into your partisan debate. Israel has always been above politics in the United States and it's important for the U.S./Israeli alliance that it remained above politics and the prime minister made that clear in his speech on Tuesday.”

Dermer on Netanyahu’s comments that Israel is prepared to stand alone: “Well, what he is saying is that Israel always reserves the right to defend itself. We have in Iran a regime that threatens Israel with annihilation and that works every day in order to destroy Israel. They have surrounded Israel with three terror tentacles in the north in Lebanon through Hezbollah, on the Syrian Golan. They have maybe a couple of thousand of Iranians who are there now through Hamas and Islamic jihad in Gaza. So, you have these three terror tentacles around Israel and Iran is vowing to annihilate Israel and we cannot accept the situation where Iran would develop a nuclear weapon to achieve that goal. But understand it's not just a threat to Israel, it's a threat to the region and it's a threat to the world. And what's interesting, Michael, is that Israelis and Arabs are on exactly the same page when it comes to the Iranian issue. And when Israelis and Arabs are on the same page, people should pay attention. That happens about once a century.”

 

TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

SMERCONISH: The reviews of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress about Iran this past week depend on whom you asked. Republicans uniformly praised his address while President Obama and some Democrats in Congress were critical of the prime minister's remarks.

Here now, Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States. Ambassador, thanks so much for being here. Do you wish in retrospect when Speaker Boehner extended this invitation to you for the prime minister that you said to him, hey, I think we better loop in the White House?

RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Well, hindsight is always 20/20 and we regret very much that there was a perception, a partisanship before the speech. That was the last thing we wanted to do was inject Israel into your partisan debate. Israel has always been above politics in the United States and it's important for the U.S./Israeli alliance that it remained above politics and the prime minister made that clear in his speech on Tuesday.

SMERCONISH:
Was the invitation Speaker Boehner's idea or your idea?

DERMER:
Speaker Boehner who called me and I assumed that he was going to inform the White House. He did, but he did it only a couple hours before. But I hope that now we can get beyond the protocol and beyond the politics and we can talk a little bit about the substance because it's a pretty serious issue.

SMERCONISH: We will do that.

I watched first - one other question. I watched the footage of this protest in Tel Aviv yesterday. It seemed like tens of thousands of people came together in opposition to the government. Do you worry that Prime Minister Netanyahu may lose his position because of the blow back to this visit?

DERMER: Look, we have a vibrant democracy in Israel. We're going to have elections in 10 days and there are rallies on all sides like any healthy democracy has. So, we'll just allow the Israeli voters to vote 10 days from now. And it's right that we have in Israel that unfortunately many of our neighbors do not have.

SMERCONISH: Some have noted that the prime minister did not use the word zero in his comments to the congress, his speech - the comments, perhaps leaving open the door that he's willing to find acceptable some number of centrifuges. Are we reading the speech too carefully if come to that conclusion or is that fair?

DERMER: No. But we're not in the negotiating room. Israel is not there.

(CROSSTALK)

DERMER: Right. But the leading powers of the world they are the ones who are negotiating with Iran. Israel does not have a vote.

We do have a voice and the prime minister used that voice, I think, very effectively on Tuesday. And what he was telling the leading powers of the world, he said, look, the deal that currently is on the table is a very bad deal. In order to make that deal a better deal you have to extend the break at a time, which means to leave Iran with less infrastructure.

And the second thing which was very new that the prime minister said I,s you have to link the removal of restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to a change in Iran's behavior. They have to stop their aggression in the region, stop terrorism around the world and stop threatening to destroy Israel. And if you link that together then we can be sure that when those restrictions are removed Iran is a different country and won't be the same country it is today.

SMERCONISH: At the end of his remarks the prime minister said that - I'm paraphrasing, (INAUDIBLE) the days of Israeli passivity are over and that Israel is prepared to stand alone.

I watched and I wondered, is he saying that if a deal is negotiated that he personally finds unacceptable that Israel will launch a first strike against an Iranian nuclear capability?

DERMER: Well, what he is saying is that Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.

We have in Iran a regime that threatens Israel with annihilation and that works every day in order to destroy Israel. They have surrounded Israel with three terror tentacles in the north in Lebanon through Hezbollah, on the Syrian Golan. They have maybe a couple of thousand of Iranians who are there now through Hamas and Islamic jihad in Gaza. So, you have these three terror tentacles around Israel and Iran is vowing to annihilate Israel and we cannot accept the situation where Iran would develop a nuclear weapon to achieve that goal. But understand it's not just a threat to Israel, it's a threat to the region and it's a threat to the world.

And what's interesting, Michael, is that Israelis and Arabs are on exactly the same page when it comes to the Iranian issue. And when Israelis and Arabs are on the same page, people should pay attention. That happens about once a century.

SMERCONISH: Ambassador Dermer, thank you, sir. We appreciate you being here.

DERMER: Thank you.

END


Topics: CNN
tmpl
soundoff (No Responses)

Comments are closed.