benjamin netanyahu

NETANYAHU: IF WE ARE NOT IN THE JORDAN VALLEY, IRAN WILL BE

 

Iran will take over the Jordan Valley unless Israel maintains a military and civilian presence in the area, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday night at a jubilee event marking the 50th anniversary of the state’s control of the region.

“If we are not here, Iran and ‘Hamastan’ will be here.

We will not let this happen,” said Netanyahu, as he made a rare visit to the Jordan Valley where some of the first settlements were built after the Six Day War.

The area is beyond the West Bank security barrier, and the future of its settlements was considered tenuous when the Obama administration was in power in Washington. It was feared that Obama’s diplomatic plans included Israel withdrawing from the settlements in the valley while leaving an Israeli military presence there.

Eliciting shouts, whistles and applause, Netanyahu pledged that he would not uproot the Jordan Valley settlements.

“The Jordan Valley will always be part of Israel. We will continue to settle it and invest in its industry and its tourism,” the prime minister said.

 

The region “has supreme security importance for the State of Israel,” he added.

“The Middle East is fickle and violent. The Jordan Valley is a strategic defensive belt for the state. Without it, a flood of fundamentalism could enter the country and reach as far as the Dan region. That’s why our eastern line of defense begins in this place,” Netanyahu said.

Anyone who questions that need should look no further than Israel’s northern borders, Netanyahu said in reference to Lebanon and Syria.

“We have a clear policy,” he said. “We will harm all those who try to hurt us. We will not accept leakage [occasional attacks]. , and we will do so quickly. But our existence here is not just dependent on the sword – it is also based on building, intelligence and creativity.”

Fifty years ago, when Israel entered the area, it was an “arid and yellow land,” the prime minister said.

In the future, Netanyahu said, he hoped the region, which borders Jordan, could help foster regional cooperation.

“This can be a place of peace and prosperity for all the people in the region,” he said.

Last month he spoke at the national 50th jubilee celebration of settlement in Judea and Samaria that was held in Gush Etzion. He likewise addressed the Samaria celebration that was held in August.

To mark the Jewish New Year, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visited the Jordan Valley in September and similar pledged that it would remain in Israeli hands.

Netanyahu’s speech comes as US President Donald Trump is working to renew the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, which has been frozen since April 2014.

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Netanyahu hails US demand that Hamas renounce terror, recognize Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday hailed the US administration for rejecting any Palestinian government in which Hamas plays a role as long as the terrorist group refuses to recognize Israel and disavow violence.

“I am happy that Jason Greenblatt, President [Donald] Trump’s envoy, made it very clear that Hamas must be disarmed, recognize Israel and uphold previous international decisions,” Netanyahu said at ceremony marking 100 years since the death of pre-state underground fighter Sarah Aaronsohn in Zichron Yaakov.

Greenblatt’s statement reiterated that any Palestinian government “must be committed to these principles,” Netanyahu went on. “We want peace. We want a real peace, and exactly because of that we will not conduct negotiations with a terrorist organization in a diplomatic disguise.”

Meanwhile, Greenblatt has traveled to Egypt “to meet with senior officials about the status of reconciliation” between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Hamas terror organization, a senior US official said Thursday.

Washington is “closely monitoring the reconciliation efforts,” which were signed last week in Cairo, the official said.

Greenblatt will also work with Egypt “on the basic principles outlined in his earlier statement today so we can help facilitate an enduring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Greenblatt had released a statement stressing the importance of the PA assuming “full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza” in order to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians in the coastal strip.

“The United States reiterates the importance of adherence to the Quartet principles: any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said. “If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements.”

Hamas denounced Greenblatt’s statement.

“This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests,” said senior Hamas official Bassem Naim.

He accused Greenblatt of bowing to pressure from Netanyahu’s right-wing government.

“This statement comes under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement from two days ago,” Naim said.

ANALYSIS: NETANYAHU ZIGZAGS AROUND PAL. UNITY DEAL, AVOIDS REAL TALK OF PEACE

 

On surface-level, Tuesday’s security cabinet decision not to negotiate with a Hamas-based Palestinian government following the reconciliation agreement between the rivaling Palestinian factions is a big drama.

After quipping noncommittally for about three days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a sharp turn to the right, half-leading, half-following in the footsteps of Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett (as per usual). The prime minister declared that until Hamas disarms, acknowledges Israel’s right to exist, cuts off ties with Iran and returns the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers as well as the reportedly kidnapped Israeli civilians, Israel will not hold a negotiation with the Palestinian Authority.

Not that such a negotiation is actually taking place anywhere. But over in Washington at the White House, US President Donald Trump is continuing to declare at every possible opportunity that he is serious and intent on presenting a peace imitative very soon, that he’s convinced that the Palestinians want to achieve peace and that it’s possible.

So it’s either Netanyahu is discreetly aligned with Trump on the ‘nothing will come of it because nothing is happening’ agenda (Netanyahu’s go-to line when confronted with the criminal allegations the police is currently investigating him on) or the premier is, as is his habit, playing it by year.

In the meantime he has to hold tightly onto the Right-wing base as he braces for the next round of investigations, so if anyone should approach him with a peace deal, he’s just going to improvise.

At the end of the day, as Henry Kissinger once put it: “Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic policy.” But what has changed since Kissinger’s days as secretary of state is the fact that the current Israeli government has no Archimedean point to keep its balances in check.

Usually, the coalition is comprised of Right-wing elements, central elements and those that lean a bit more to the Left. The presiding Israeli prime minister, be it Netanyahu or his predecessors, tries to gravitate towards the political center.

But in the current Netanyahu coalition, which is the most Right-leaning coalition in the history of Israel, the prime minister has long ago given up the central position and is dancing to the tune of Bennett’s threats. Which is not so bad if you think about it, because even farther Right from Bennett looms MK Bezalel Smotrich (who is known for his radical Right agenda and adamant support of the settlement enterprise). At least Bibi isn’t leaning that far Right.

Israel’s demands for Hamas are justified. There’s nothing to negotiate with Hamas. It’s a radical, murderous organization lacking any discretion or the ability to be truly pragmatic. On the other hand, the claims made by the Israeli Left have something to them: It can’t be that when there’s a rift between Gaza and the West Bank, Israel says that there’s no partner because the Palestinian people are split up, but when finally there is unity, Israel will claim it doesn’t have a partner for peace because Hamas is at the helm.

Even in the current coalition in Israel there are those who are opposed to a Palestinian state and don’t see the Palestinian people as partners for peace (the Beyit Yehudi party and most of the MKs from the Likud party).

Granted, Israel isn’t endorsing terrorism and the Beyit Yehudi is a democratic, legitimate political party. It may be that buried here are the seeds that could sprout in several weeks or months when President Trump shows up, if he does, with his political initiative.

At such a time, the new Palestinian government will declare that it is distancing itself from terror, Hamas will order its operatives to stop attempts at terror attacks in Judea and Samaria (bear in mind that Hamas hasn’t sent out terrorists from Gaza since Operation Protective Edge in 2014), and the redeeming recipe to renew peace negotiations will finally be uncovered. Negotiations will begin, hit a wall, and the cycle will commence once more, all over again.

In the coming days, the curtain will be raised over the American reaction to Israel’s callous move. The estimation is that last night Netanyahu conveyed to Washington the required messages, the gist of it being that Israel is willing to climb off of its high horse. Because while the security cabinet announced its decision not to negotiate on Tuesday evening, the IDF announced that it is extending Gaza’s fishing territory and declared that other facilitations will be introduced in the financial and humanitarian fields.

Because that’s how Netanyahu plays: One time he’s the good cop, next time he’s the bad cop. Dramatic cabinet decision followed by a kind wink and an attempt to appease. That’s how he continues to zig-zag throughout his endless path in the hallways of the Middle East, which forever lead him to the very same place- the starting point.

Ben Caspit is an Israeli journalist and columnist with Maariv, writing about security, diplomacy and political affairs.

NETANYAHU TO RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: ISRAEL WON’T ALLOW IRANIAN PRESENCE IN SYRIA

 

Israel will not allow a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday, a day after Israel destroyed an SA-5 anti-aircraft battery in Syria that fired on IAF planes over Lebanon.

Both Russia and Iran are key backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, most of the meeting dealt with Iranian efforts to set up a permanent military presence in Syria. “Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow that,” Netanyahu told Shoigu.

The Iranian nuclear deal and US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to decertify it were also discussed. Netanyahu repeated Israel’s position – if the deal is not changed, Iran will acquire a nuclear arsenal within eight to ten years.

Following Trump’s announcement last week, Russia said there was no place in international diplomacy for aggressive rhetoric, and that Trump’s effort was doomed to fail.

Russian media quoted Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin as saying after the meeting that the two leaders “expressed confidence that the meetings held on Israeli soil will give an additional impetus to the development of Russian-Israeli cooperation.”

Fomin also said they discussed their countries’ shared rejection of antisemitism, falsification of World War II history, and the belittling of the USSR’s decisive contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany.

Shoigu welcomed a law passed by the Knesset on July 27 officially declaring Victory in Europe Day on May 9 as a national holiday, to be commemorated by special programs in the Knesset, the cabinet, schools and the IDF.

Diplomatic officials have said Israel’s recognition of the Red Army’s crucial role in defeating the Nazis has played an important role in the development of strong Israel-Russian ties, as Moscow feels its part in the defeat of the Nazis – and its sacrifice – has been badly downplayed by the West.

In 2012, Israel dedicated a monument in Netanya to the Red Army’s defeat of the Nazis, one of the only countries outside the former Soviet bloc to have done so.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is hosting the visit and met his Russian counterpart on Monday, also took part in the Netanyahu-Shoigu meeting, after visiting Yad Vashem with Shoigu beforehand.

During his meeting with Liberman on Monday night, Shoigu said the Russian operation in Syria was “nearing completion,” but stressed there were many issues that still needed to be addressed.

“I would like to talk about the situation in Syria. Our operation is going to be finished there and there are a few issues that require [an] urgent solution.

And prospects for further development of the state of affairs in Syria need to be discussed too,” he was quoted as saying by the Russian website Sputnik.

Moscow’s military intervened on behalf of Assad in September 2015. Since then, Israeli and Russian officials have met regularly at the highest levels to discuss the deconfliction mechanism set in place to ensure that Israeli and Russian forces do not accidentally clash over Syria.

Shoigu also said because of the current situation in the Middle East, he hoped his visit and the talks would help to “better understand each other” and contribute to strengthening ties between the armed forces of the two countries.

“As terrorist activities in the world have been increasing, the international community needs to stay united in the struggle against this evil,” he said.

Neither leader directly addressed Monday’s incident in Syria, though the IDF confirmed that the Russians were informed about the launch and retaliatory strike.

Netanyahu congratulates Austria’s Kurz, but silent on partnership with far right

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called to congratulate Sebastian Kurz on his victory in Austria’s elections, according to a statement from his office that made no mention of the success of the far-right Freedom Party.

On Sunday, the 31-year-old Kurz’s  People’s Party (OeVP) swept to victory with a projected 31.7 percent of the vote, ahead of the Social Democrats (SPOe) at 26.9% and the anti-migrant Freedom Party (FPOe) at 26%, leading to the expectation that Kurz would turn to the far right party as a coalition partner.

In the call, Netanyahu said, “Austria has done much in recent years to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and in its fight against anti-Semitism.” He also raised the issue of “Iranian aggression,” according to the statement.

Netanyahu also invited Kurz to visit Israel. He was last in the Jewish state in May 2016 as foreign minister.

Kurz, for his part, told the prime minister of his interest in boosting Austria’s ties with Israel, the PMO said.

The statement did not make any mention of the Freedom Party’s expected role as the junior partner in Kurz-led coalition. In 1999, Israel recalled its ambassador after the party, then under Jörg Haider, joined the government.

The success of the FPOe, which was founded by former Nazis in the 1950s, has created a dilemma for Israel, whose government refuses to meet with members of the party. If senior party member Norbert Hofer were to become foreign minister, as is common for runners-up in Austrian coalition governments, Jerusalem would have to choose between ending its longstanding policy of not interacting with ultra-nationalist parties and boycotting a top diplomat of a friendly country.

Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who has been to Israelseveral times, but was not given meetings with senior officials, has publicly expressed his desire to become interior minister. Hofer, who last year unsuccessfully ran for the largely ceremonial position of president, has his eyes on the Foreign Ministry.

In 1999, after it became Austria’s second-largest party, FPOe joined a coalition government with the center-right People’s Party. The FPOe’s controversial leader Jörg Haider, who normally would have become chancellor, quit the party chairmanship. Many European countries downgraded their contacts with Vienna and Israel recalled its ambassador, though it returned him a year later.

In light of the toxicity surrounding the party, Strache has sought to clean up the FPOe’s image and dismissed its neo-Nazi past as “naivete.”

While the party’s rise follows that of a number of other far-right parties in Europe, including the Alternative for Germany and France’s National Front, the FPOe is set to actually enter government, which in turn could further fuel divides in the European Union.

With new Iran strategy, Trump rips page out of Netanyahu’s playbook

https://www.timesofisrael.com/with-new-iran-strategy-trump-rips-page-out-of-netanyahus-playbook/

 

When US President Donald Trump outlined his new strategy to counter Iran in a major policy speech Friday, he said that his views were formed “after extensive consultations with our allies,” but he could really only have been talking about Israel and some Gulf states.

Most of America’s allies — most notably France, Germany, Britain — and other world powers vehemently condemned the president’s change of tack, which included a direct threat to terminate the Iran nuclear agreement if it is not significantly modified.

Only Saudi Arabia, the United Arab EmiratesBahrain and, of course, Israel welcomed Washington’s new confrontational course on Iran.

And while it was no secret that the Gulf states shared Jerusalem’s ferocious opposition to the 2015 pact, which was intended to roll back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, it was Israel’s leader who most vocally and most persistently attacked it from any possible stage.

In formulating his new Iran strategy, Trump clearly took a page or two out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s playbook.

The president’s main demands — improved enforcement of the deal in the present, preventing it from expiring in the future, and killing it if this can’t be done; plus additional sanctions to punish Tehran for its missile programs and other aggressive behavior — are virtually indistinguishable from those the Israeli leader presented just a few weeks ago at the United Nations.

“President Trump has just created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism,” Netanyahu said on Friday evening, in a pre-recorded statement based on a briefing he had received ahead of Trump’s speech, before the start of the Shabbat, from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Trump never hid his disdain for the agreement his predecessor Barack Obama struck with Tehran, though it was unclear if he’d leave it in place or seek to dismantle it. In his speech Thursday, he announced his unwillingness to certify that the pact was in America’s national interest, and instead asked lawmakers to “address the deal’s many serious flaws,” while promising to cancel it altogether if Congress failed to do so.

He attacked the pact’s so-called “sunset clauses,” which, he said, “in just a few years, will eliminate key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.”

He announced the “long-overdue step of imposing tough sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.” Though stopping short of declaring the IRGC a terrorist organization, he authorized the Treasury Department to “apply sanctions to its officials, agents and affiliates.”

And he vowed to “counter the regime’s destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region,” and its missile program.

If Congress “and our allies” don’t reach a solution that strengthens enforcement of the deal, prevents Iran from developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, and does away with the sunset clauses by making all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under US law, “then the agreement will be terminated,” he threatened.

If that all sounds familiar, it’s because Netanyahu said much the same on September 19 during his speech at the UN General Assembly.

Israel’s policy regarding the nuclear deal, Netanyahu declared one day after talks with Trump at a bilateral meeting in New York, is very simple: “Change it or cancel it, fix it or nix it.”

The prime minister elaborated: “Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability. Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation.”

Above all, Netanyahu said, “fixing the deal means getting rid of the sunset clause.”

In addition to dealing with the nuclear threat, the prime minister went on: “We must also stop Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and roll back its growing aggression in the region.”

What happens next?

What will Congress do, and will that satisfy the president? Answering reporters’ questions soon after Friday’s speech, Trump said bluntly of Congress, “They may come back with something that’s very satisfactory to me, and if they don’t, within a very short period of time, I’ll terminate the deal.”

What will the other signatories to the Iran deal do?

And how is Iran going to react to additional sanctions?

None of that is immediately clear.

What can be said with some degree of certainty is that Netanyahu and Trump are totally aligned when it comes to Iran. Both leaders loathe the nuclear deal but are ready to let it survive if enforcement is improved and, crucially, if the restrictions on Iran are never lifted.

They also have identical demands regarding the need to ratchet up pressure to confront Iran’s non-nuclear aggression in the region.

Trump may not have aligned with Israel’s government as much as Netanyahu would have liked on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, the settlement enterprise and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But on Iran at least, the two seem to be in total lockstep.

Netanyahu: Trump created ‘opportunity’ to fix Iran nuke deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday praised US President Donald Trump’s decertification of Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, saying it presented an “opportunity” to fix the accord and thwart the Islamic Republic’s regional ambitions.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Trump’s decision to not recertify the agreement would help prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which the prime minister said it was on the path to doing under the current accord.

“I believe that any responsible government, and whoever seeks to promote peace and security in the world, needs to take advantage of the opportunity that President Trump’s decision has created in order to improve the agreement or abrogate it and, of course, stop Iran’s aggression,” said Netanyahu.

The prime minister also praised Trump’s decision to introduce new sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which backs regional terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

“It is self-evident that the [US] president’s decision to impose sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards needs to be supported. The Revolutionary Guards are Iran’s main arm in spreading terror around the world and, of course, in spreading its aggression throughout the Middle East,” he said.

In a video clip released on Friday, Netanyahu praised Trump’s announcement later that day, in which the US president said he would not recertify the Iranian nuclear deal and vowed to also take a tougher approach toward Tehran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism.

In his comments Sunday, Netanyahu also said he had instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare for Israel’s departure from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization following the United States’ decision to withdraw from the body.

Echoing US criticism of UNESCO’s “anti-Israel bias,” Netanyahu said the organization “has become a platform for delusional, anti-Israeli and – in effect – anti-Semitic decisions.”

Despite UNESCO’s selection of a new leader, who on Friday called on Israel and the US to reconsider their decision to leave the organization, Netanyahu said while he hoped France’s Audrey Azoulay would usher in a new regime, he was not counting on it.

“We hope that the organization will change its ways but we are not pinning hopes on this; therefore, my directive to leave the organization stands and we will move forward to carry it out,” he said.

NETANYAHU CONGRATULATES TRUMP ON ‘COURAGEOUS’ IRAN DECISION

 

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Netanyahu-congratulates-Trump-on-courageous-Iran-decision-507356

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded US President Donald Trump on Friday evening for deciding not to recertify the nuclear deal with Iran, which he has been openly opposing since its inception in 2015. “I congratulate President Trump for his courageous decision today. He boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime,” the prime minister said in a video statement he released in English.

Moments after Trump declared a new and tougher US policy on Iran, leaving the US Congress to decide whether or not to impose new sanctions on Tehran, Netanyahu asserted that “If the Iran deal is left unchanged, one thing is absolutely certain- in a few years’ time, the world’s foremost terrorist regime will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons and that’s tremendous danger for our collective future.”

“President Trump has just created an opportunity to fix this bad deal. To roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism,” Netanyahu continued.

“That’s why Israel embraces this opportunity. And that’s why every responsible government, and any person concerned with the peace and security of the world, should do so as well,” he stressed.

In September, Netanyahu expressed once more his deep dissatisfaction with the nuclear accord, telling the United Nations General Assembly in a speech that the the deal with Tehran is bad.

“Fix it or nix it. Change it or cancel it,” he urged at the time. Netanyahu warned that “an Iranian curtain is descending across the Middle East. It spreads this curtain over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere and pledges to extinguish the light of Israel.”

However, the prime minister also noted that while Israel is facing an imminent threat that could further evolve should Iran remain unchecked, he had a simple message to what he often terms a “rogue terrorist regime.”

“I have a simple message for Khamenei: The light of Israel will never be extinguished.”

But other Israeli officials were less enthusiastic about Trump’s speech announcing that the nuclear accord will be decertified by the US, which is also slated to impose new sanctions on elements linked to the deal, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Speaking to Channel 2 following Trump’s speech, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said that he thought the US president’s speech was “very significant” but that he belived it could trigger a war with Iran.

“I think that the speech was very significant. Iran is the new North Korea. We see where things are going,” Katz stated.

Avi Gabbay, the recently-elected new head of the Zionist Union party who many predict could replace Netanyahu one day, echoed the prime minister’s sentiment over Trump’s announcement.

“I welcome Trump’s decision to financially hurt the terror system of the Revolutionary Guard,” Gabbay stated Friday evening. “The next stage- fixing the agreement and lengthening it so that Iran can’t go back to enriching uranium,” he expressed his hope.

Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), who formerly served as Israel’s Foreign Affairs Minister, also lauded Trump for his strong stance.
“Justifiability President Trump is dealing with the Iranian danger in general. The Revolutionary Guards, the support of terror and the missile program- the immediate threats that were not handled in the deal and demand an answer,” Livni tweeted moments after Trump concluded his speech.

Israel ‘to prepare’ for UNESCO withdrawal alongside US, says Netanyahu

Israel will begin preparations to withdraw from the UN’s cultural and education body now that the United States has made its decision to do the same, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday

“The prime minister instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from the organization alongside the United States,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement, hours after the US said it is quitting the organization, citing its “anti-Israel bias” alongside financial considerations.

Netanyahu said he “welcomes the decision by President [Donald] Trump to withdraw from UNESCO. This is a courageous and moral decision because UNESCO has become the theater of the absurd and because, instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”

The US withdrawal is to take effect on December 31, 2018.

Earlier Thursday, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, said his personal recommendation to Netanyahu would be to “immediately withdraw” from the organization.

Shama-Hacohen said that in recent years UNESCO has become “an absurd organization that has lost its way in favor of the political considerations of certain countries” and that his “personal recommendation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to follow suit and immediately withdraw [from UNESCO].”

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said in a statement Thursday following the US announcement to withdraw that “the purpose of UNESCO is a good one,” but “unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment.”

Haley cited UNESCO’s July decision to declare the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank, the site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, an endangered world heritage site, as “the latest in a long line of foolish actions, which includes keeping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protestors.”

“US taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense,” she said.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, earlier praised Washington’s decision, saying UNESCO has become a forum for Israel-bashing and had forgotten its original purpose.

Danon said UNESCO was now “paying the price” for the “shameful” decisions it has adopted against Israel, citing “a new era” dawning at the UN in which “anti-Israel discrimination” has consequences.

Israel lost its voting rights at UNESCO in 2013, following its move to suspend dues to the organization over its decision to grant full membership to Palestine in 2011.

The US too lost its voting rights at the same time and has not paid some $80 million a year in dues since 2011.

The US previously withdrew from UNESCO in 1984 because Washington viewed it as mismanaged and used for political reasons, then rejoined it in 2003.

Israel this past year cited a UNESCO decision disputing Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as a reason to further reduce its the amount it pays annually to the United Nations. In May, Netanyahu said Israel would cut another $1 million from its payments to the UN, bringing the total cuts since December 2016 to $9 million.

It marked the third time in less than a year that Israel has reacted to UN resolutions it deems biased against it by announcing the slashing of its payments to the body. In December, after the Security Council passed Resolution 2334, Netanyahu ordered $6 million cut from Israel’s payment to the UN. And in March, after the Human Rights Council passed five anti-Israel resolutions, Netanyahu vowed to cut an additional $2 million.

UK’s May tells Netanyahu her country is sticking with Iran deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his British counterpart, Theresa May, agreed on Monday that the international community needed to be “clear-eyed” about the threat posed by Iran in the Middle East even as May said the UK remained committed to the 2015 nuclear accord and praised its importance.

Speaking by telephone on Monday, Netanyahu and May discussed security cooperation, Israel-UK trade and the contentious nuclear deal signed two years ago between Tehran and the P5+1 world powers, which included the UK.

A spokesman for Downing Street said May noted to Netanyahu “the importance of the nuclear deal with Iran which has neutralized the possibility of the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons for more than a decade.”

May told the Israeli leader, a vocal opponent of the deal, that the UK remained “firmly committed” to it and that it was “vitally important for regional security,” adding that Iranian compliance with the accord should be “carefully monitored and properly enforced.”

May and Netanyahu “agreed that the international community needed to be clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East, and that the international community should continue working together to push back against Iran’s destabilising regional activity,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Netanyahu recently urged a “fix it or nix it” approach to the deal, telling the United Nations General Assembly last month that the accord will pave the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons if it is not scrapped or altered. Netanyahu singled out for criticism the deal’s so-called sunset clause, which will lift limitations on Iran’s nuclear program when the accord expires in over a decade.

“Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability,” Netanyahu told the UNGA. “Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation. But above all, fixing the deal means getting rid of the sunset clause.”

Such an approach is reportedly being adopted by US President Donald Trump, who is set to give an Iranian policy speech this week in which he will likely announce that he will not recertify the accord to Congress.

Trump, who has called the Islamic Republic a “murderous” regime and the nuclear deal an “embarrassment,” will speak ahead of an October 15 deadline to report to Congress on whether Iran is complying with the agreement.

The move would trigger a 60-day congressional review period to consider the next steps for the United States, which signed onto the accord along with Iran and five other states.

In his speech, Trump is expected to declare the nuclear agreement contrary to America’s national security interests.

The president is reportedly unhappy about the periodic deadlines to recertify to Congress the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the accord every 90 days, as mandated in a provision of a 2015 US law known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

Several officials familiar with internal discussions say the periodic deadlines have become such a source of embarrassment for Trump that his aides are trying to find ways for him to stop signing off on the accord without scuttling it entirely, the Associated Press reported last week.

“Decertification” could lead Congress to reintroduce economic sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the deal. If that happens, Iran has threatened to walk away from the arrangement and restart activities that could take it closer to nuclear weapons.