Netanyahu Explains 'The Ultimate and Most Important Goal in the Middle East'

By Susan Jones | June 23, 2014 | 6:12 AM EDT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the 68th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

( - "I think the ultimate and the most important goal in the Middle East is to make sure Iran does not have nuclear weapons capability," Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"Because those weapons -- unlike mortars and machine guns, it can kill thousands; and chemical weapons, it (can) kill tens of thousands; these weapons -- nuclear weapons could kill millions. That should be prevented at all costs."

Netanyahu said the United States should not do anything that would strengthen either the Sunni terrorists or Shi'ite Iran.

"Look, I think it's a complicated situation and there are no easy answers. But what you're seeing in the Middle East today in Iraq and in Syria is the historic hatreds between radical Shiites, in this case led by Iran, and radical Sunnis, led by al-Qaida and ISIS and others. Now, both of these camps are enemies of the United States, and when your enemies are fighting each other, don't strengthen either one of them; weaken both.

"And I think by far the worst outcome that could come out of this is that one of these factions -- Iran would come out with nuclear weapons capability. That would be a tragic mistake. It would -- it will make everything else pale in comparison."

Netanyahu praised the U.S.-negotiated deal to "remove the bulk" of Syria's chemical weapons, and he said that's what should happen to Iran's nukes:

"What is I think being discussed in the case of Iran by the international community is that you remove most of the sanctions, and Iran gets to keep most of the capabilities, most of the stockpiles, most of the ability to manufacture the means to make nuclear weapons. That's a terrible mistake. I hope it doesn't come to pass because I think this would -- this would change history. It would be a monumental mistake. In the context of the world at large and the Middle East as it is today, this would be a tragic, tragic outcome."


The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Friday voted to divest its holdings in companies that do business with Israel, part of a protest against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

Asked about the divestment, Netanyahu called it "disgraceful," and said it should "trouble all people of conscience and morality."

"You know, you look at what's happening in the Middle East -- and I think most Americans understand this. They see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions. Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians.

"Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation.

"You know, I would suggest to you, those Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice. One is, make sure it's an armor-plated bus; and second, don't say that you're Christians."