Netanyahu says Iran and international community are ignoring ‘weak’ Israeli government

Opposition President Benjamin Netanyahu asserted on Tuesday that Iran and the international community do not take “weak” Israeli government seriously and “ignore” Jerusalem as it presses against resumption of multilateral nuclear deal .

“Iran sees the weakness of the government, as does the international community that wants to revert to the dangerous nuclear deal, so they ignore the government,” Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not taken a broadly different approach to Iran from that led by Netanyahu, whom he replaced last June. Bennett opposes a US return to the deal just like Netanyahu and demanded – in a call last week with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – that the US immediately pull out of the talks in Vienna aiming to revive the agreement rather than surrender to Iran. “nuclear blackmail”.

The main difference in the new government’s policy was the stated desire to avoid public feuds with the United States, which were more common as the original deal was being negotiated by the Obama administration. Netanyahu delivered a speech in 2015 at a joint session of Congress – coordinated behind the back of then-President Barak Obama – in which he lobbied against the deal. The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed several months later.

The new government has expressed interest in voicing its disagreements behind closed doors, although it was Bennett’s office that issued a reading that included his harsh words against negotiations in Vienna.

Netanyahu asserted Monday that “if it had not been for the efforts of the previous governments I have led, Iran would have long since acquired an arsenal of atomic bombs.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on Iran during a joint United States Congressional meeting in the Capitol House Hall March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee / Getty Images / AFP)

“We have waged an unprecedented struggle [to change] American public opinion and world public opinion, in Congress, the Senate, the UN and in the capitals of the world. This fight simply does not exist today ”, declared the president of the opposition.

He said government opposition to the deal today “is too weak, too confused and too weak”.

“Apparently it exists, but nobody hears it. Because no one [takes this government seriously]. Because the world powers know that a weak, confused and powerless government is in place in Israel, ”Netanyahu added.

The opposition leader said the only acceptable deal is one that completely dismantles Iran’s nuclear capabilities – such a deal was not on the table in Vienna.

“In the absence of such an agreement, Israel must be prepared to act independently against Iran’s nuclear program – that is, independently, without notice and with surprises,” he said. said, referring to the Bennett-Lapid government’s commitment not to surprise the United States on the Iranian nuclear issue. Netanyahu has lambasted such a commitment for months, although both US and Israeli officials told The Times of Israel the policy also existed when he was prime minister.

Earlier Monday, Iran said it was ready to resume nuclear talks on the basis of the draft proposals it submitted last week, accusing Western powers of blocking negotiations in Vienna.

Coburg Palace, the site of Iranian nuclear talks, is pictured in Vienna on November 29, 2021 (Vladimir Simicek / AFP)

Last week, the Islamic Republic resumed international talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal after a five-month hiatus. On Wednesday, he submitted two draft resolutions on lifting US sanctions and nuclear-related measures.

But over the weekend, the United States, along with European participants in the Vienna talks, accused Iran of backtracking. A senior US administration official said the proposals “amount to all the compromises Iran has offered” in the previous six rounds of negotiations.

The official accused Iran of seeking to “pocket all the compromises that others – the United States in particular – had made and then ask for more.”

Even Russia, which has a stronger relationship with Iran, questioned Iran’s commitment to the process. Israel, an outside observer with an interest in the outcome of the talks, stepped up its rhetoric.

US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides, left, meets with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 5, 2021. (GPO / Amos Ben-Gershom)

The landmark 2015 nuclear deal was originally struck between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States.

The deal was intended to put the brakes on Iran’s nuclear program to ensure it could not develop an atomic weapon, in return for sanctions relief for Tehran.

But that started to unravel in 2018 when then-US President Donald Trump, with strong encouragement from Netanyahu, withdrew and reimposed the sanctions, while Iran began to publicly violate them. Since then, Iran has stepped up its nuclear activities, building up a stockpile of highly enriched uranium that far exceeds the limits of the agreement.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Mossad chief David Barnea will press, in meetings this week in Washington with senior officials in the Biden administration, for the United States to carry out a military strike on Iranian targets, have said. reported on Sunday the three major Israeli news broadcasts.

According to the reports, which do not cite any sources, Gantz and Barnea will urge their American interlocutors to develop a “plan B” vis-à-vis Iran, seeing the nuclear negotiations blocked in Vienna as an opportunity to push the United States. to make a decision. more aggressive stance towards the Islamic Republic.

AFP contributed to this report

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