OTR Interviews

Netanyahu warns the world not to be 'hoodwinked' by new Iranian president's 'charm offensive': 'Distrust, dismantle, verify'

Israeli prime minister on being wary of the new, moderate Iranian president, US conflict with Syria, his UN General Assembly address and more

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 3, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu going "On the Record," the prime minister warning us a nuclear-armed Iran is not only a threat to Israel but to the United States, too.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Prime Minister, nice to see you, sir.

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BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. It's great to be back again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to have you back in the United States.

NETANYAHU: Well, it's nice to be back.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you just spoke to the Iranian BBC, is that correct?

NETANYAHU: The Persian language broadcast of the BBC, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's unusual.

NETANYAHU: First time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you do it?

NETANYAHU: Because I wanted to say things to the people of Iran. And I said, Look, you were once a great civilization. We once had a great friendship. You know, Cyrus the Great was a great Persian king who enabled the Jewish exiles on the rivers of Babylon to come back to the Holy Land. That's 25 years ago. He said, Go back to the land of Israel, rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. That's a bond.

We had a great bond through history until the ayatollahs took over. They hijacked the people of Iran's yearning for freedom in 1979, put them in the dark ages. Now they're trying to develop nuclear weapons to eradicate Israel and to dominate with their crazy creed around the world.

And I said to them, You know, we all have a vested interest that they don't get nuclear weapons. Certainly, we in Israel, the people of America, the United States, they understand this would be nuclear terrorism galore. Europeans, Arabs, no one wants to see nuclear weapons.

But you, the people of Iran, don't want nuclear weapons in the hands of this tyranny because it will become immortal, like North Korea. You'll never regain your freedom. You'll be slaves to this journey forever. So you, too, the people of Iran, want to see this regime disarmed from any nuclear weapons capability. That was my message to them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's sort of fascinating, you going around President Rouhani to speak directly to the Iranian people, much like, actually, the way that things have happened here recently with President Putin going around President Obama and putting an op-ed in The New York Times. Senator John McCain did it in Pravda on line. So we have these world leaders now who are almost bypassing the leaders and speaking to the people.

NETANYAHU: But there's one -- there's one difference, you know? I speak to my own people, and anybody can say anything about me, which they do, by the way because we have a free press, OK? Same thing is true of the United States.

But Rouhani, the Iranian president, comes to the United States, makes a nice song and dance, a lot of smiles, soft words. And he tweets messages -- he tweets messages in New York. When is he going to let the Iranian people tweet messages freely in Iran? They don't let that [happen].

That Persian -- that BBC Persian language interview that I just had, they jam it in Iran! So there's no freedom in Iran. There's no democracy. There's a dark dictatorship that seeks to develop nuclear weapons with mad designs on the United States. They're developing ICBMs. What are they developing these ICBMs, the intercontinental ballistic missiles for? They're not developing it for us. They've got missiles that can reach Israel. They're developing it to reach you!

And those missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, have only one purpose, a nuclear payload.

So as the Iran president is talking nicely to you, they are developing the weapons and vehicles to strike the United States. They have to stop it. They have to dismantle their program, dismantle their nuclear weapons program. Now, that's not what they are offering. They are offering something entirely different. I don't think we should be hoodwinked.

VAN SUSTEREN: You use the word "hoodwinked." There was a charm offensive by President Rouhani when he spoke before the U.N. "The New York Times" in their editorial seemed to be a little bit smitten with it, although they said basically trust but verify.

NETANYAHU: I say distrust, dismantle, and verify.

VAN SUSTEREN: You do indeed say that in your speech. You have "The New York Times" sort of at least saying this is a change. Then you have the president of the United States for the first time since the revolution in 1979 speaking on the phone with President Rouhani. So you have got the United States a little bit -- almost -- I don't know if "charmed" is the word, but they seem to have softened a little bit towards the Iranians. You have not.

NETANYAHU: No. I spoke to President Obama at great length. I appreciated the fact that on the day of the shutdown he took a few hours to talk about this, because we have a common goal, to make sure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. The shutdown we are looking for is a shutdown of Iran's nuclear weapons program.

The president said that Iran's conciliatory words must be met with meaningful action. What is meaningful action? It's not a partial deal that leaves Iran with the machines and materials to make enough fissile material, enough bomb material to make atomic bombs. It's got to be a complete dismantling, no the partial deals.

In the case of Syria, you didn't come to Assad and say, well, why don't you take 20 percent of your chemical weapons? You said, full deal, full dismantling. That's what should be done here.

And Iran does not need any residual capability for nuclear enrichment, enrichment of uranium. They say, well, we want civilian nuclear energy. OK. Seventeen countries have civilian nuclear energy programs without enrichment. You can have civilian nuclear energy, but the only reason you want enrichment capability is to make nuclear weapons.

The real reason they say we'll make minor concessions but keep the capacity to enrich uranium and convert heavy water because that gives us the bomb. No, that's not when you take sanctions off. Complete dismantling of Iran's nuclear weapons capability, and then and only then we leave the sanctions.

You've got them on the ropes. That economy is about to collapse. You want to knock out Iran's nuclear weapons program peacefully? Keep up the sanctions and go for the full deal, nothing short of it. No partial deals, no enrichment.

VAN SUSTEREN: We spoke in March of 2012, you and I. You said the crippling sanctions affected their economy but not their nuclear program. Then if you fast forward to now you argue passionately that they need all their enrichment capability thrown away, get it out of Iran.

You met with the president on Monday and made a statement about all the enrichment on Tuesday. On Monday in the Oval Office did the president agree there would be no nuclear enrichment in Iran, that that's the position of the United States?

NETANYAHU: We agree we need meaningful actions. It's an interesting question. This is an intellectual exchange. I don't mean a highfalutin level. It's a real exchange where people are seeking the same goal. Let's see how we get it. And I think the U.S. administration and the president are now trying to work out what's the best way to do it.

But the last thing you want to do -- here is the worst thing that can happen because of the so-called charm offensive. With the unchanging goal, that I guarantee you, the unchanging goal of maintaining Iran's nuclear weapons capability, they make some tactical concessions. This is Rouhani's plan. Smiles, make some tactical concessions, keep the bulk of the machine and the materials so they can one day at the time of their choosing rush forward and create enough enriched material, enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of sanctions or even partial lifting of sanctions.

Here's what will happen if you do this. They will maintain the capacity to break forward with nuclear weapons and the sanctions regime could collapse. You remove some of the sanctions, there are enough countries are waiting for this to happen, they will drop the sanctions regime all together.

So what took us years to put in place -- and you know how long I have been talking about this with you and so many others. It took us years to get the international community to put these very strong, crippling sanctions in place. You let them go, and Iran will make concessions that they could reverse in weeks. Who wins out on that? Iran. Who loses? The world, the U.S. Israel, the Arabs, everybody .

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VAN SUSTEREN: We have much more with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Up next, he warns President Rouhani will hoodwink the United States and the rest of the world. You're going to hear what the prime minister plans to do about that next.

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VAN SUSTEREN: More of our interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: I suspected when I heard you speak before the U.N., you said that Israel would go alone essentially if the international community, or Israel will take responsibility to get rid of the nuclear weapons in Iran. I suspected that the day before President Obama was not as strong and that he thought there was a way Iran could keep enrichment capabilities whether it's for energy or medical or whatever. That's what I suspected. I suspected that's why you were so forceful the next day saying Israel will go alone. And of course that harkened back to other times when you have spoken about Israel's right to defend itself, and at what point do you activate that right.

NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, the president said that he will not give up the option to prevent Iran militarily. I think that's important. Secondly, I don't seek a military solution. I would be the happiest person alive if we actually get a real dismantling of Iran's nuclear program with diplomatic means, but it has to be real.

VAN SUSTEREN: Since we spoke March 7, 2012, nothing happened.

NETANYAHU: That's correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nothing happened at all.

NETANYAHU: Except exchange of words, sugar coating.

VAN SUSTEREN: Plus 15 months more to do whatever they want.

NETANYAHU: Exactly. I say if they continue enriching, they are piling up enriched uranium as negotiations proceed. I say pile up new sanctions.

But I think if we can get a peaceful agreement that is a true deal, a complete dismantling, no partial deals and no enrichment left -- they say they want it for medical isotopes. Greta, dozens and dozens of countries, I'm sure the number is much more than dozens, they have medical isotopes. You can buy the stuff. You can get it. They say they want it for nuclear energy. Well, 17 countries, big countries have a civilian nuclear energy program again without these elements that can produce nuclear weapons.

Khamenei wants nuclear weapons. Rouhani was a servant, he wrote this book in Persian. He's an open book. He wrote the book on nuclear strategy, negotiations and nuclear strategy. He always says -- I have to read this to you. He was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. At that time Iran was able to hoodwink the west and build the critical facility that separates uranium yellow cake, uranium ore, and converts it to enrich-able form. That's how you make the bomb.

And here is what he said. In this book he said "While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran," negotiating, "we were installing the equipment in the nuclear conversion plant. By creating the calm environment, calm international environment, we were able to complete the work." That's what he says. He says basically, I fooled you once. I will fool you twice. Do you remember that? Fool me once, fool me twice. Fool me thrice? We are not going to let him do it. That's what this man is about. He openly says "I am deceiving you."

VAN SUSTEREN: We go back. It seems like in the United States with "The New York Times" being their editorial and the president trying to meet with Rouhani and apparently trying to meet with him, it seems the United States is impressed with him in some small way. Even though it wants to have things verified, but there is a thaw there. It seems that the history of the president, things he has said, lack of example of actual product, that we are going for the "fool me twice."

NETANYAHU: I think people are more careful than that. And I was impressed with the fact that the president wants a real cessation of the problem, a real dismantling of the program.

Now I think the Iranians think they can get away with it. I don't think they can, because if we are very focused on what it is that is a true dismantling of the program, then they can't get away with it. And what will happen, OK, just think about it. You do a partial deal, leave them with nuclear capability. You remove some of the sanctions. The sanction regime collapses. So you have nice editorials. You have a ceremony. Everybody claps hands. Two weeks later, the sanctions collapse and Iran continues to work toward the bomb, a breakout capability. Nobody is going to benefit. Everybody will understand that.

So I think people are smarter in Washington than you would think, and it's complex. There is a natural desire to have a real nonmilitary solution, a diplomatic solution. Who doesn't want that? But it has to be real. It can't be a fake deal, a phony deal, a partial deal. And I think that that is something that's penetrating the consciousness both of the public but also the decision-makers. You want something that will stick. You don't want a fluff ceremony that evaporates and dissipates, and we are left with nothing or worse than nothing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)