Brown to Knesset: Iran must suspend nuclear bid or face global isolation
In the first-ever Knesset address by a British prime minister, Gordon Brown condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for the destruction of Israel as "abhorrent," and vowed that Tehran's bid to acquire nuclear weapons would not be allowed to pass.
It is "totally abhorrent for the president of Iran to call for Israel to be wiped from the map," Brown told lawmakers yesterday. "Iran has a clear choice to make: suspend its nuclear weapons program and accept our offer... or face isolation... not just of one nation, by all nations around the world."
The British leader condemned recent efforts by British unions to boycott Israel due to its treatment of the Palestinians.
"The British government will stand full square against any boycotts of Israel or Israeli academic institutions," he said.
Brown also voiced his support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, relaunched at a U.S.-hosed summit in Annapolis, Maryland, last year. He said he felt "a historic and lasting peace is within your grasp."
Brown added that he favored a two-state solution with a Palestinian state that "accepts Israel as a friend and a neighbor."
Prior to Brown's address, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the visiting premier, and also stressed that Israel could not reconcile with a nuclear Iran.
"From our point of view, we are talking about an intolerable situation, with which we cannot reconcile ourselves," Olmert said.
He said that Iran was not just a menace for Israel, but a "global threat."
"The State of Israel is not asking for anything but peace," he said, adding that although Israel's conflict with the Palestinians was "bitter," it was "not unsolvable," and that although there were "still profound disagreements" in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, these were "bridgeable."
Olmert praised Britain's "tough stance" in the global struggle against terrorism.
Brown said in his meetings with Israeli officials that if Iran did not accept the incentives, the next step would be to ratchet up sanctions against Tehran, possibly including sanctions on Iran's oil and gas industry.
He urged setting up an international coalition against Iran to increase the pressure to stop enriching uranium.
Brown briefed Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the progress of legislation which would ensure that Israeli political and military leaders would not be indicted in Britain for war crimes in the territories.
He said that British Justice Secretary Jack Straw had already approved a draft proposal that will be put to a parliament vote soon. The new legislation, if enacted, would nullify suits and arrest orders issued against senior Israeli figures, such as former OC Southern Command Doron Almog.
Livni told Brown that IDF officers act in keeping with "moral values and orders" that sometimes limit their ability to fight terror. Having them exposed to indictments initiated by interested political parties in countries that are exposed to the same threats as Israel "is very frustrating," she said.
Brown also met Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who told him about Hezbollah's increased strength and the arms smuggling "that could disrupt the delicate balance in south Lebanon."
Before speaking at the Knesset, Brown met opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and the two discussed the Iranian and Palestinian issues. Likud MKs Yuval Steinitz, Gidon Saar and Silvan Shalom attended the meeting.
Netanyahu told Brown that further Israeli concessions in the West Bank would only strengthen Hamas and establish another Iranian base in the heart of the country.
Brown said Britain would continue to act to increase pressure on Iran to stop the nuclear program.
Brown's visit here will be followed by that of another foreign politician: U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama arrives tonight for meetings with Olmert, President Shimon Peres and leaders of the Palestinian Authority.