JERUSALEM – Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's leading candidate for prime minister, said Saturday that Iran "will not be armed with a nuclear weapon."
In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 TV, Netanyahu said if elected prime minister his first mission will be to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat. Netanyahu, the current opposition leader and head of the hardline Likud party, called Iran the greatest danger to Israel and to all humanity.
When asked if stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions included a military strike, he replied: "It includes everything that is necessary to make this statement come true."
Iran has denied it is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and says it is pursuing nuclear power for peaceful uses. It also denies it is engaged in terrorism, instead accusing Israel of terrorist policies against the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, which were occupied by Israel after the 1967 Mideast War.
The Channel 2 TV broadcast interviewed all three candidates for prime minister ahead of the Feb. 10 election. The three did not debate each other and appeared one after the other to answer questions posted by Israelis in YouTube videos.
Tzipi Livni of Kadima and Ehud Barak of Labor were both asked about how they intended to deal with the continuing rocket threat from Hamas militants in Gaza. Both took a hard line.
"Hamas was hit like it was never hit before," Barak, the defense minister, said. "If they try us again, they will be hit again."
Israeli launched a massive three-week offensive against Gaza militants on Dec. 27 to stop eight years of near-daily militant rocket fire at southern Israeli towns. Nearly 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, about half of them civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Thirteen Israelis were also killed, three of them civilians.
Livni, the foreign minister, said if Hamas "hasn't gotten the message yet" Israel would strike it again.
Regardless, she said Hamas could not be negotiated with and called on the people of Gaza to overthrow their regime.
"I do not intend to reach any agreements with Hamas. Agreements I make with people who accept my existence," she said. "They do not recognize Israel and do not renounce violence and terrorism. They will not be a party to an agreement and therefore the people of Gaza have to expel the Hamas from within them."