Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel from 1996–1999 and has been a good friend of mine since before he was appointed as the deputy chief of mission in the Israeli embassy in Washington in 1982. In 2002, he served as Israel’s foreign minister and was appointed finance minister in 2003, where he served until he resigned in protest of the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. On April 1, 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister and formed its 32nd government.
Evans: Tell me about Iran’s involvement with the recent outbreak of fighting in southern Lebanon.
Netanyahu: I think there is no question that Hezbollah would not last a day without Iranian support – and, of course, Syrian support. They have been funding them, directing them, arming them, inspiring them, and there is no question that of the two, Iran is the more serious threat. It is guided now by a mad Shiite militancy that wants to throw the world back 1,000 years – I was going to say to medieval times, but it is almost pre-medieval times – and to do this with an apocalyptic slaughter of millions. They have this creed, which you think would already have passed from the world. After all, 300 years ago was the end of the religious wars, but they want to reconstruct it.
We’ve been given a wake-up call here. Using their proxies in Lebanon, and in Gaza, they are rocketing Israeli cities with these weapons they have now. Imagine what would happen later if Iran were to have missiles that would reach into every European capital within a decade, into the eastern coast of the U.S., and would be armed not with explosives, but with nuclear weapons. I think that is a very grim possibility for the world. I think this has to be stopped. Israel will deal with Hezbollah, cutting its military force and dismantling its missile arsenal, and the U.S. should deal with Syria and especially with Iran by applying massive international pressure on them. I think the most important statement is the one President Bush and Vice President Cheney have made, that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel is just the forward position. They are really after you, not after us.
Evans: There are proxies attacking your country, and no one is using the word “Iran” any longer. Is it possible that if America sleeps, America could be experiencing proxies coming across our borders?
Netanyahu: Up until now, nuclear weapons have been in the hands of responsible regimes. You have one regime that apparently has them now in North Korea. There aren’t a billion North Koreans that people seek to inspire into a religious war. That’s what Iran could do. It could inspire the 200 million Shiites. That’s what they intend to do – inspire them into a religious war, first against other Muslims, then against the West.
The reason they despise us so much, the reason they want to eradicate us, is that they don’t hate you because of us; they hate us because of you. They say we are the “Small Satan” and that America is the “Great Satan.” Europe is the “Middle-Sized Satan,” although they don’t know it. It is important to understand that they could impose a direct threat to Europe and to the United States – and to Israel, obviously. They don’t hide it. They don’t even hide the fact that they intend to take on the West.
Evans: On 9/11 you spoke to the nation and you described 9/11 as a “wake-up call from hell.” What would America look like and what could happen to our nation if Iran goes nuclear?
Netanyahu: Iran has said in unequivocal terms that first of all its target is Israel and they do it with a particular brand of malevolence because they deny that the Holocaust took place – the murder of 6 million Jews – while they’re openly declaring their intention to create another holocaust to destroy the 6 million Jews of Israel. Number one, Israel could be in great jeopardy. Number two, so will everybody else. And number three, of course, is the ability of Iran to use its nuclear arsenal and its missile arsenal to threaten Europe and the U.S. directly.
You can’t count on the ayatollahs of the world, armed with nuclear weapons, to back off. They often prefer their zeal over their survival. This is a different ideology; it is a different threat. It must not be allowed to be armed. It is the new barbarians who are seeking the weapons of mass death, and we have all been forewarned. This is another wake-up call. That’s all it is.
Evans: Are you saying there is an Islamic faction that would prefer a mushroom cloud in Israel and America, a world without Zionism and America, and that somehow they think we are all going to submit to Islam?
Netanyahu: That’s what they want; it’s not a preference. It’s like they are ordered to do it. This is the danger of this creed. It’s not a choice; it is almost like an order from Allah. That’s why these people are willing to commit suicide. This is probably the first time that such a mad militancy on a global scale would seek to acquire weapons of mass death.
Evans: How do you see the current Iranian nuclear situation?
Netanyahu: Iran could inspire 300 million Shia to a religious war – first against other Arabs, then against the West. They don’t hate you because of us; they hate us because of you. They don’t hide the fact that they intend to take on the West. We have to have our eyes on the two objectives: one, to take care of Iran, especially Iran’s part in Lebanon and Gaza; and two, deal with Iran’s nuclear missile program. Iran must not arm itself with weapons of mass destruction.