First Published: 2012-12-26

 

Netanyahu plays Iran card in re-election bid

 

Israeli PM pledges halting Tehran's nuclear programme will be his first priority as premier.

 

Middle East Online

By Jonah Mandel - JERUSALEM

Who do (Israeli voters) think is the most suitable candidate to deal with the Iranian threat?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday put Iran at the top of on his re-election campaign, pledging that halting Tehran's nuclear programme would be his first priority as premier.

"Who do (Israeli voters) think is the most suitable candidate to deal with the Iranian threat? With the missile threat? With the threat of terror?" he asked supporters in Jerusalem in a speech at the official launch of his campaign for January 22 polls.

"We still have a lot ahead of us," he said. "First and foremost we must stop Iran's nuclear programme, and the time for that is slipping away. That is my first mission as prime minister."

Israel and Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to acquire a weapons capability under the guise of its nuclear energy programme. Iran denies the charge, saying its work is for peaceful purposes only.

At a speech before the UN's General Assembly in September, Netanyahu warned that if Iran continued work at the current pace, it could have the necessary material for a first bomb by the summer of 2013.

In his speech on Tuesday night, Netanyahu expanded at length for his domestic audience on what he termed his government's economic achievements and laid out his future goals. He only briefly addressed the peace process.

"Our hand will continue to be extended to our neighbours for true and mutual peace, while continuing to insist on the state of Israel's vital interests -- I'm telling you -- in the face of all the pressure," he said.

On Monday, Israel approved the latest in a series of plans for approximately 5,000 Jewish homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Palestinians want east Jerusalem as capital of their promised state, and they -- along with the international community -- consider settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank a violation of international law.

"With God's help, we will continue to live and build in Jerusalem, which will always stay united under Israeli sovereignty," Netanyahu said.

"In the last years we did a lot to strengthen the settlements, and we will continue to act to strengthen" them in the next term, said Netanyahu.

Polls predict that Netanyahu's Likud party, which is running on a joint list with the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu faction of former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, will be by far the largest party in the next parliament.

Lieberman, who earlier this month resigned from Netanyahu's cabinet after attorney general Yehuda Weinstein said he would charge him with breach of trust, used the opportunity to blame Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for the freeze in peace talks.

"I hear people reproaching us, that we need to speak with Abu Mazen and the Palestinians," he said using Abbas's nom de guerre.

"The enlightened Left ... offered to return to the 1967 borders and divide Jerusalem and Abu Mazen said -- niet," Moldovan-born Lieberman said, using the Russian word for "no".

After the event, Lieberman was taken for further questioning by the police following Weinstein's decision to re-open the investigation and possibly toughen the charges against the former minister.

Lieberman, despite resigning from cabinet, is still running for cabinet as Netanyahu's number two.

He has said he hopes for a quick trial that would be over by the elections. But the justice ministry announced on Sunday it might conduct further probes.

 

Netanyahu warns Congress: Nuclear deal will free Iran to develop weapons

Two killed in Cairo bomb blast

US controlling ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels

Yemen leader proposes reconciliation talks to be moved to Saudi

South Sudan's oil wells pose environmental hazard

Bottle of juice vs. outspoken critic of Israel domestic policies

UN approves sanctions regime for South Sudan

Arab states to mull creation of joint force against ‘Islamic State’

Libya tit-for-tat airstrikes target airport, oil terminal

Iran holds memorial service for ‘Afghan volunteers’ killed in Syria

South Sudan general accused of abducting child soldiers

Netanyahu takes fight over Iran nuclear ambitions to Congress

UN delegation meets Aleppo governor to push ‘freeze’ plan

Jihadists use urban warfare to slow Tirkit adavance

Libya warplanes strike militia-controlled airport

Egypt court cancels call for parliamentary elections in March

Saudi diplomat kidnapped by Qaeda in Yemen released

Obama lashes out at Netanyahu over Iran

Tunisia blogger jailed for 6 months for defaming army

Erdogan in Riyadh as Saudi Arabia seeks to re-energise foreign policy

Palestinians prepare to lodge first war crimes complaint against Israel

Turkey probes soldier for failure to resist ‘Islamic State’

US envoy to Yemen throws support behind President Hadi

Libya recognized parliament names Haftar as chief of armed forces

How Islamic is ‘Islamic State’?

Separate battles rage on against IS in key border area

Reconciliation with Iran proves far from simple for Hamas

Before UN rights panel, Kerry delivers vigorous defense of Israel

Turkey explores for oil in Iraqi Kurdistan

Two killed in Egypt bomb blast

Egypt leader visits Saudi Arabia

Syria opposition hails France's anti-Assad ‘exemplary’ stance

Police, anti-shale gas protesters clash in Algeria

Baghdad launches military operation to retake Tikrit

Netanyahu puts US-Israel ties under strain

First Iran flight lands in Huthi-held Yemen capital

Egypt President meets Saudi King Salman for talks on bilateral ties

Netanyahu flies to Washington to press case against Iran nuclear deal

Court ruling may force delay of Egypt parliamentary elections

Yemen separatists suspend participation in UN-sponsored talks

Scores dead as car bombs target crowded market in Iraq capital

Iran shrugs off Netanyahu bid to abort nuclear deal

Egypt lists Hamas as terrorist organisation

Jailed Kurdish leader calls on followers to lay down arms

Dozens dead as Qaeda takes strategic rebel base in Syria