Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leaves Monday for a three-day European trip in which he will meet with the leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom for talks on the Iranian nuclear program.
“Tomorrow I leave for Europe, where I will meet with three important leaders, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May. I will discuss regional developments, but the focus of our talks will be first and foremost Iran and continuing to block its nuclear program,” Netanyahu said ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday. “I will of course clarify that Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, he added.
Netanyahu said the talks would also focus on “containing Iran’s expansionism and aggression in the Middle East and primarily in Syria.”
“Here as well,” Netanyahu said, “ I will clarify one point of principle: Israel will continue to maintain its freedom of action against any Iranian entrenchment in Syria.”
Netanyahu will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday morning, before heading to Paris in the evening for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and continuing Wednesday to London where he will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May. Netanyahu returns to Israel Thursday.
All three countries are signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Netanyahu will be hoping to persuade the European leaders to support a hardline on Tehran following United States President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the framework on May 8.
All three leaders have spoken out in favor of maintaining the deal since then, with the three leaders issuing a joint statement saying, “it is with regret and concern that we—the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom—take note of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States of America from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In addition to the joint statement, Merkel said following Trump’s announcement that while the nuclear deal is far “is everything other than ideal,” she also noted that she believes Tehran has met its obligations under the agreement. At the same time, Macron spoke by phone to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urging him to remain in the deal despite the United States’ exit.
Netanyahu’s visit also takes place under the shadow of renewed rocket attacks from Gaza at Israeli communities adjacent to the Strip as part of a months-long protests “March of Return” during which tens of thousands of Palestinians have challenged IDF troops along the border fence. Last week, Germany called the Hamas attacks “malicious,” while the French foreign ministry said the attacks last Tuesday were “inconsistent” with a peaceful resolution of Israel-Palestinian tensions.
“France unequivocally denounces fire at civilian populations that only luckily did not claim any victims. France is unconditionally committed to Israel’s security,” the Ministry said.