Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, where the two leaders focused on the growing Iranian threat.
“We agree that the question of Iran’s regional influence is worrying, especially for Israel’s security,” Merkel said in a joint news conference with Netanyahu following their private meeting.
She added that “we will exert our influence in such a way that Iran is pushed out of this region,” and that her country will take a “very close look at Iran’s activities in the region and seek to contain it.”
Netanyahu said that not only is Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East a concern for Israel, but also Germany, as the prospect of more refugees fleeing the region could end up in the country.
Iran wants to “basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria but try to convert Sunnis,” said Netanyahu.
“This will inflame another religious war; this time a religious war inside Syria and the consequences will be many, many more refugees and you know where exactly they will come,” he said.
More than a million refugees, mainly from Syria, have arrived in Germany since 2015 and that has created a political backlash against Merkel’s party.
Netanyahu was on a three-day trip to Europe to discuss “Iran and Iran” with the leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom—all key signatories of the Iranian nuclear deal. Netanyahu intends to press the European leaders on the need to thwart Iranian aggression in the Middle East and its nuclear ambitions.
The Israeli leader acknowledges his difference with Merkel on the nuclear accord, but that the two countries share the same goal.
“We respect the policies of Chancellor Merkel. We have some disagreements, as you can see, on occasion, but they’re not really on goal, they’re more on the question of the method,” he said.
“Basically, the problem with this deal, as I saw it, was that it says to Iran: In exchange for not enriching uranium for a single bomb today, you can enrich unlimited amounts of uranium for a 100- to 200-pound bomb within seven to 10 years. Today, it’s about seven years,” explained Netanyahu.
“I thought this was a very bad deal because it gave Iran the capacity to develop advanced centrifuges 40 times more effective in the intervening years. So they could have an unlimited enrichment capacity in a few years. That’s not a good deal.”
Merkel defended the accord, saying that “at least for a certain time, that Iran’s activities are under control,” but agreed that a supplementary deal on Iran covering its ballistic-missile program and regional behavior was needed.
“We believe that this can be achieved with tough negotiations,” said Merkel, who also announced that she will visit Israel in October.