Netanyahu willing to give diplomacy a chance on Iran's nuclear program

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he’s willing to give diplomacy a chance to weaken Iran’s nuclear program.  

For diplomacy to succeed, however, “it must be coupled with powerful sanctions and a credible military threat,” he said during comments at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, adding that "Israel is prepared to do what is necessary to defend itself."

Two weeks ago, Netanyahu condemned the deal the United States reached with its allies over Iran’s nuclear program. The six-month deal requires Iran to slow its program. If Tehran meets those guidelines, a final deal could be achieved. 

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Netanyahu’s comments indicate Israel is toning down its rhetoric on Iran. Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose post is ceremonial, said Sunday in Tel Aviv that he’s even willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. 

Despite the softer rhetoric, Netanyahu still warns Iran is close to “crossing the nuclear threshold.” 

“A nuclear-armed Iran would literally change the course of history,” he said Sunday. 

Netanyahu said if Iran builds atomic bombs, it would undermine the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

He called on the U.S. to “prevent the further erosion of sanctions” against Iran, which he called a “central element” in compelling Iran to dismantle its nuclear program.

A number of Democratic and Republican members of Congress want to enact legislation that would strengthen sanctions. In response, Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman are going to Capitol Hill this week to tamp down those efforts to toughen sanctions.