Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Sunday that the looming deal with Iran “is likely to create a more violent, volatile Middle East,” saying Iran will use declassified assets to attack Israel and vowing that Israel “will not treat Iran as a… Nuclear power will accept threshold state.”
Bennett stressed that it is Israelis and those living in the Middle East who will bear the brunt of the consequences of the deal discussed in Vienna, but added that “there’s no point in finger-pointing.”
The prime minister’s comments came as Western officials indicated an agreement could be reached within days.
The biggest problem with the deal, Bennett argued, are the so-called sunset clauses.
“In two and a half years, that’s just around the corner,” Bennett said, “Iran will be able to develop, install and operate advanced centrifuges. Imagine football stadiums spinning advanced centrifuges – made possible by this agreement.”
Speaking in Jerusalem to the conference of presidents of major American Jewish organizations, he also bemoaned the fact that the deal would give Iran access to billions of dollars if the regime is on the ropes.
“Right now they are very weak,” he said. “The rial has lost value. They are at their weakest point in history,” and yet tens of billions of dollars will flow “back into this terror apparatus” under the forthcoming deal. And he warned: “Much of this money will be used for attacks on Israel.”
Bennett listed three points that needed to be addressed in light of the upcoming deal:
“1. The deal gives Iran a fast track to military-grade enrichment. And in the time until sundown, they don’t even have to destroy all the centrifuges they’ve been developing over the last few years.
“2. The Iranian regime insists on closing the IAEA’s open files on “hot investigations” into possible military dimensions. Or in plain English: Iran has hidden and is still hiding nuclear weapons-related material. She was caught red-handed, and Iran is demanding that the inspectors who caught her pretend to forget what they saw.
“3. The deal will inject money, billions of dollars, into the Iranian terror machine – more UAVs, more attacks on ships, more missiles on Israel and our allies through its proxies.”
He also revealed that in the ongoing negotiations “to put an end to the chutzpah – Iran is demanding that the IRGC (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) be removed” as a designated terrorist organization. “You understand? They are now demanding that the world’s largest terrorist organization be let off the hook.”
Despite the “set of new challenges to Israel’s security” created by the deal, Bennett concluded positively, assuring the audience at the Inbal Hotel that Israel is up to the challenges.
“I have no doubt that we will prevail,” he said. “Yes, this agreement will enrich this brutal and corrupt regime – but it is only temporary. If I were an investor, Iran would be the last place I would invest. No one in their right mind should invest in a country whose number one export is terrorism.”
Israel, on the other hand, he explained, “is stronger than ever, growing 8% in 2021, a year of COVID. Our economy is booming and will continue to grow, become more competitive and less regulated. Our high-tech breaks all records. We are hiring more Jewish men and Arab women in the workforce. We have ensured political stability, passed a budget and our path is as good as ever.”
He assured the audience that Israel is “building unprecedented military capabilities… So yes, there are challenges, but we are up to them.”
Insisting that Israel will not tolerate Iran as a nuclear emerging power, he stressed, “We have a clear and non-negotiable red line: Israel will always maintain its freedom of action to defend itself.”
Israel’s Channel 13 reported on Sunday that while acknowledging that it will not be able to attack Iran’s enrichment facilities if and when a deal is signed, Israel is trying to ensure that it exercises its freedom of action against the arms and Iran retains missile development, which is not covered by the deal.
In a dig at his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett said Israel has prioritized rebuilding ties with its neighbors and is committed to working with lawmakers from both parties in the United States.
“Israel is becoming bipartisan again,” he said.
Relations with US President Joe Biden and the administration will remain strong and robust despite disagreements over the Iran deal, Bennett promised, noting Republican and Democratic lawmakers who are in Israel this week.
Bennett made similar remarks earlier in the day at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. He said Israel was preparing for the day after the deal that emerged from the Vienna nuclear talks, which he said was “shorter and weaker” than the previous deal and would allow Tehran to build “stadiums of advanced centrifuges” if it expires.
While Israel publicly opposes a return to the multilateral deal, it is preparing for world powers and Iran to reach an agreement within days to revive the deal to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, Israeli TV reported on Friday.
Israel rejected the original deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, with then-Prime Minister Netanyahu arguing that it actually paved the way for an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
The Netanyahu government then backed former US President Donald Trump‘s decision to withdraw the US from the deal in 2018 and launch a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, leading Tehran to publicly authorize nuclear work in violation of the JCPOA accelerate.
Biden is now trying to revive the deal on condition Iran returns to compliance.
Secretary of Defense Benny Gantz met with US Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday and told her that any future nuclear deal with Iran must include rigorous enforcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency.