In Talk With U.K. Jews, Cameron Urges Israel Not to Attack Iran

British premier says expressed his objection to military action to PM Netanyahu, adds economic sanctions should be allowed to work.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron addressed an annual United Jewish Israel Appeal gathering in London Monday, where he said he urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to launch a military attack on Iran over its contested nuclear program, adding that sanctions should be given time to work.

"I have said to Prime Minister Netanyahu that now is not the time for Israel to resort to military action," the British premier said at the meeting, adding that beyond "the unpredictable dangers inherent in any conflict" the other reason for avoiding military action was the toll of harsh economic sanctions were already taking from Tehran.

"At the very moment when the regime faces unprecedented pressure and the people are on the streets, and when Iran’s only real ally in Syria is losing his grip on power, a foreign military strike is exactly the chance the regime would look for to unite its people against a foreign enemy," the U.K. PM said, adding: “We shouldn’t give them that chance. We need the courage to give these sanctions time to work."

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Referring to the direct effect of economic measures on Iran, Cameron said: "Most significantly, there are signs that the Iranian people are beginning to question the regime's strategy with even pro-regime groups protesting at the actions of the government."

"It's mind boggling that the leaders of a nation so rich in oil have succeeded in turning their country into a banana republic desperately trying to put rockets into space while their people suffer.

Cameron added, however, that “In the long term, if Iran makes the wrong choice, nothing is off the table. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to Israel. And a threat to the world. And this country will work unwaveringly to prevent that from happening.”

According to the Jewish Chronicle, it was Cameron's first face-to-face encounter with a large section of the Jewish community since his appearance at August's Guildhall event to mark the 40th anniversary of the murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Last month it emerged that Cameron had sent the head of MI6, Sir John Sawyers, to Jerusalem as his personal emissary, to tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wind down the rhetoric and back down from launching a military attack on Iran.

The message that Sawyers was said to have delivered was that Britain does not support unilateral Israeli military action against Iran at this time; instead, the reports claim, Cameron suggested that Israel allow more time for diplomacy and sanctions to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon.

According to an Israeli source cited by Haaretz, Sawyers' visit and other diplomatic overtures to Netanyahu from Germany and the United States have made a significant impact on the prime minister and his plans.

Turning to the Israel-Palestinian issue on his Monday address, Cameron, mindful of the audience, first took the Palestinian side to task warning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that "if the Palestinian plan is simply posturing with the UN rather than negotiating with Israel, Britain will never support it" and for pledging that his government "will not tolerate incitement to terrorism."

Israeli and British diplomats agreed after the speech that Cameron's emphasis on preventing Palestinian incitement was the main policy change in the speech, as British governments had not in the past made this a central condition of British aid and support. Referring to a case where a Palestinian youth centre held a football tournament named for the first female suicide bomber, Wafa Idris, he said that "Britain will never support anyone who sponsors a football tournament named after a suicide bomber who killed 20 Israelis in a restaurant."

Cameron paid homage to the successful integration of the British Jewish community saying that "there is no contradiction between being a proud Jew, a committed Zionist and a loyal British citizen."

He criticized past governments that "allowed a flawed state multiculturalism" that had encouraged different communities to live separately from the British mainstream saying that "we have to end the passive tolerance of segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values" which meant "getting preachers of hate out of our country" and "proscribing organizations that incite terrorism." Cameron's government had supported the deportation last month of the Islamist cleric to the United States on terror charges.

Benjamin Netanyahu and David Cameron in Downing Street. Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

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