The following is a script from “Prime Minister Netanyahu,” which aired on Dec. 11, 2016. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Shachar Bar-On and Alexandra Poolos, producers.
On our recent trip to Jerusalem, we found a surprisingly optimistic Benjamin Netanyahu, who has served the longest stretch as prime minister in Israel’s history. He told us his country has never felt as secure or less isolated. But it’s been a tumultuous eight years between Israel and the U.S. over the Iran nuclear deal and the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. So part of his optimism relates to the election in the U.S. Netanyahu and his followers on the Israeli right, are greeting the idea of President Donald Trump with a resounding l’chaim.
Benjamin Netanyahu: I know Donald Trump. I know him very well. And I think his attitude, his support for Israel is clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish state, about the Jewish people and about Jewish people. There’s no question about that.
Lesley Stahl: With Trump, do you think that Israel will not be as at odds with the United States as you have been under the Obama administration?
Benjamin Netanyahu: Yeah, we had differences of opinion with– I had differences of opinion with President Obama and most well-known, of course, is Iran.
Lesley Stahl: Was it personal between the two of you?
Benjamin Netanyahu: No. No. I don’t think so. I think that suppose we had the greatest of personal chemistry, OK? So, what? You think I wouldn’t stand up against the Iran deal if I thought, as I did, that it endangers the existence of Israel? Of course I would.
He says it wasn’t personal but there were times when it sure seemed that way. The relationship, often rocky, hit bottom when Mr. Netanyahu took the provocative step last year of lobbying against the Iran nuclear deal and by extension President Obama in a speech before Congress.
Netanyahu in Congress: It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb, it paves Iran’s path to the bomb. So why would anyone make this deal?
Lesley Stahl: When you campaigned against him and you spoke to the Congress, it was read as a lack of respect and something that had never been done before.
Benjamin Netanyahu: No, it was not borne of any disrespect, because I have the greatest respect for him. I had then and I have now.
Lesley Stahl: But do you regret that you did that?
Benjamin Netanyahu: No, on the contrary. I think it’s my responsibility, to speak up when something threatens our very future.
He’s says he’s going to see Mr. Trump soon to lobby him to scuttle the deal. The president-elect has called the agreement “stupid” and “a disgrace.” But Trump’s choice for defense secretary, General James Mattis, has advised against pulling out.
Lesley Stahl: If it were to be abrogated wouldn’t that put you in a more precarious position than you are now? Because they would obviously then rush to the bomb.
Benjamin Netanyahu: I think Iran didn’t rush to the bomb before there was a deal.
Lesley Stahl: Really?
Benjamin Netanyahu: No, because they were afraid of retribution.
Lesley Stahl: But if– OK, you get rid of the deal. Then what?
Benjamin Netanyahu: I think what options we have are much more than you think. Many more. And I’ll talk about it –
Lesley Stahl: Like what?
Benjamin Netanyahu: –with President Trump. Well, I think quite a few, actually.
Lesley Stahl: Because if you, you know, put sanctions back on, the other signatories to the deal won’t.
Benjamin Netanyahu: There are ways, various ways of undoing it.
Lesley Stahl: You have something in your mind.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Yeah, I have about five things in my mind.
Lesley Stahl: Well, give me one.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Well, I’d like to talk to the president before I talk to the 60 Minutes.
Lesley Stahl: What about the intelligence that the West is getting from on-site inspections? Apparently, most of the intelligence community thinks it’s worth keeping the deal for that intelligence.
Benjamin Netanyahu: I think we have– the deal is not the critical thing of intelligence. Intelligence is a critical thing.
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SOURCE: CBS News, Lesley Stahl