President Obama grinned in an NPR interview when asked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request that Iran recognize the state of Israel in a final nuclear deal.
“Well, let me say this. It’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy. And I’ve been very forceful in saying that our differences with Iran don’t change if we make sure that they don’t have a nuclear weapon. They’re still going to be financing Hezbollah. They’re still supporting Assad dropping barrel bombs on children. They are still sending arms to the Houthis in Yemen that have helped destabilize the country,” Obama said.
“There are obvious differences in how we are approaching fighting ISIL in Iraq, despite the fact that there’s a common enemy there. So there’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti- Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime,” he continued.
“But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.”
Obama said that “if suddenly Iran transformed itself into Germany or Sweden or France, there would be a different set of conversations about their nuclear infrastructure.”
“The key here is not to somehow expect that Iran changes, although it is something that may end up being an important byproduct of this deal, but rather, it is to make sure that we have a verifiable deal that takes off the table what would be a game changer for them if in fact they possess nuclear weapons,” he added.
His message to the Israeli people?
“You are right to be suspicious of Iran. There’s no reason why you should let your guard down with respect to Iran. We have to make sure that Israel has the capabilities to protect itself, not only from Iran but also proxies like Hezbollah. But ultimately, Iran is deterrable, and it is deterrable not just because of Israelis — Israel’s superior military and intelligence capabilities but also because you got a really strong ally in the United States of America,” Obama said.
“And if, over time, there are opportunities in which we see changes in the Iranian regime, all the better. But we don’t have to count on that. We have to make sure that even if Iran doesn’t change the Israeli people are safe.”
Obama stressed that despite the statements of potential GOP presidential candidates to the contrary — most recently Gov. Scott Walker — he’s confident that they won’t end up overturning the Iran agreement.
“I am confident that any president who gets elected will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling into question the capacity of the Executive Branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries,” the president said.
“If that starts being questioned, that’s going to be a problem for our friends and that’s going to embolden our enemies. And it would be a foolish approach to take, and, you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”