In a joint press conference on this occasion, Netanyahu’s speech focused heavily upon the issue of the threat posed to Israel by Iran and its nuclear program. Germany is the “plus one” the joined the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to make up the P5+1 group of nations that is negotiating with Iran to trade restrictions on its nuclear program for the removal of economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
A final agreement based on these negotiations is due on June 30, but Netanyahu and much of the Israeli government feels that the prospective deal falls far short of what would be necessary to safeguard the security of the Jewish state and of the West.
“We think a better deal is required than the one proposed in Lausanne,” Netanyahu said referring to the April 2 framework agreement that ostensibly set the stage for a final deal. “And I believe that this is important for our common future and our common security.”
During her two-day visit to Israel, Von Der Leyen also met with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to further discuss the nuclear negotiations. The German minister explained in the joint press conference that it was important to “listen very precisely” to Israel’s concerns and suggestions as the negotiating parties work toward the final deadline.
But Netanyahu’s comments regarding Iran were not limited to the nuclear issue. He also expressed concern about what analysts have described as an Iranian policy of strategically encircling its regional rivals – Israel and Saudi Arabia – in pursuit of hegemony in the Middle East.
“They are leading a campaign of conquest and subversion throughout the Middle East, Yemen and around the borders of Israel, not far from our border in the Golan Heights, and Gaza,” Netanyahu said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The issue of an Iranian presence in the Golan Heights has become prominent in recent weeks as Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese paramilitary, has taken on a stronger role in the fight to defend the Assad regime in Syria. This has reportedly coincided with attempts to establish a permanent presence for Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Golan Heights, where the anti-Israeli terrorist group could launch new attacks across the border.
The issue of Iranian influence in Gaza arose last summer when Iran was found to have dramatically increased the range of missiles used by Hamas in a brief war with Israel. Following that war, Iran claimed that the Muslim world had scored a blow against Israel, and the Iranian Supreme Leader urged extremists from around the world to help further finance this fight.
On Tuesday, the Times of Israel reported that Hamas’ apparent debt to Iran had prompted it to allow Iran to sponsor a Shiite Islamist movement, called Al-Sabrin, in the Gaza Strip. Although Hamas has received direct support from the Iranian regime, the two groups are on opposite sides of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, and the establishment of a Shiite movement alongside Hamas arguably gives Iran much more direct influence there.
Arutz Sheva reports that banners outside of Al-Sabrin centers show images of Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as well as slogans including “Good luck to the Iran-Jerusalem axis.”