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Israel PM Says he ‘Had Influence on Trump’ over Iran

Israel PM Says he ‘Had Influence on Trump’ over Iran

Thursday, 12 September, 2019 - 11:00
FILE PHOTO: US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave after Trump's address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip is making another war against militants in the impoverished enclave inevitable and stressed that he had influence on the White House in its pressure campaign on Iran

"I do not wage war unless it is a last resort and I don't risk the lives of our soldiers and citizens just to get applause," Netanyahu said in an interview with Kan Reshet Bet Radio. "We will probably have no choice but to set out on a big campaign, a war against the terror forces in Gaza."

"I won't start it one minute before we are ready, and we are preparing for a 'different war'," he added, shortly before flying to Russia for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Netanyahu spoke just days before he seeks re-election in a nationwide vote.

The Israeli military has responded to the attacks with limited strikes against Hamas installations that have caused no casualties and little damage, and has refrained from risking a larger conflagration on the eve of Israelis heading to the polls.

The Israeli leader has been criticized for failing to respond harshly to the rockets, which have been frequently sending residents of southern Israel scurrying for cover.

Netanyahu, who counts on the working-class, Gaza border towns as part of his electoral base, was himself whisked away by bodyguards from a campaign event on Tuesday when rockets were fired toward the area where he was.

Prior to his departure to Sochi, Netanyahu said the focus of his talks with Putin would be to promote the "joint goal" of removing Iranian forces from neighboring Syria.

Netanyahu and Putin have met regularly in recent years to coordinate military activities in Syria.

The Israeli PM has for years argued for aggressively countering Iran's nuclear program and its regional belligerency and often takes pride in having a strong working relationship with both Putin and US President Trump.

However, Netanyahu's clout in Washington appeared to take a hit this week with the firing of one of his like-minded allies in the administration, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and amid reports that Trump was considering meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and easing sanctions against Iran.

In his radio interview, Netanyahu defended his record.

"Where did this strong sanctions policy against Iran come from if not from the struggle that I led? Indeed, I have had influence on Trump," he said. "You can't tell the president of the United States with whom he should meet, but there is not one person who has influenced more, and continues to influence, the aggressive stance against Iran than me, and everyone knows that."

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