WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, embroiled by evolving scandals at home, received a hero’s welcome by more than 18,000 attendees at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday, one day after holding talks with U.S. President Donald Trump on Iran and the Middle East.
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Netanyahu, who was greeted alongside his wife Sara with standing ovations, saluted Trump on his stance on Iran, repeatedly saying "we must stop Iran, and we will stop Iran" to thunderous ovations from the crowd. The prime minister said that "darkness is descending on our region," adding that "Iran is building an aggressive empire." He noted that Trump has made it clear that he, too, will never accept a nuclear Iran.
"If the flaws of the nuclear deal are not fixed, he will walk away and restore sanctions," he said. "Israel will be right there by America’s side, and so will other countries in the region."
Netanyahu added that he appreciated the efforts of the Trump administration’s delegation, including Jared Kushner, working on his Middle East peace plan, but said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must stop supporting terror before there can be peace.
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"I have a message for President Abbas: Stop paying terrorists," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu began his remarks by highlighting several dignitaries in the audience, including U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Netanyahu thanked Trump for his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, saying that "it’s especially great to be in America’s capital now that he [Trump] has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital."
Netanyahu said the Israeli military has never been stronger and thanked American presidents, Congress and AIPAC "for helping bring this about." Netanyahu went on to say that Israel’s intelligence agencies "have foiled dozens of major terrorist attacks across the world in dozens of countries."
"But the good news doesn’t stop merely with Israel’s strong military," Netanyahu said, going on to praise Israel’s strong economy. Netanyahu slammed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, telling whoever boycotts Israel, "we’ll boycott them!"
Netanyahu met Monday with Trump at the White House and the two gave joint remarks addressing the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Iran nuclear agreement and the peace deal.
“Iran, Iran and Iran was the main topic of the meeting. In another 60 days the president has to make an important decision regarding the nuclear agreement. I think that he shows great interest in my assessments,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying.
“We also spoke about Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinians. Around half the time about Iran, maybe even a little more, and the second half on the rest of these issues," Netanyahu added.
Netanyahu reportedly also noted that "the evacuation of settlements didn’t come up at all" in his talks with Trump.
The meeting took place as Israel is rocked by the latest dramatic development in the Netanyahu corruption scandals: A third confidant turned state’s evidence. Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu’s "spin doctor" will hand over recordings of Netanyahu and his wife Sara as part of a deal in which he will not stand trial, face prison times or be fined.