During his visit to Washington on Thursday, Israel’s Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett accused the Obama administration of “jeopardising” Israel’s security in order to reach an agreement with Tehran over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dispatched Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, to the US to urge the Congress to reject a possible diplomatic settlement between the major world powers and Iran over its nuclear programme. Iran insists that its programme is purely civilian, however the West and Israel suspect that the programme has a secret military purpose.
On Thursday, the US offered to release $45 billion of Iran’s frozen assets for halting of some of its nuclear activities.
The Obama administration defends the agreement with Iran, while Israel’s Prime Minister has reiterated his demands not to accept what he describes as a “bad and dangerous” agreement, warning that it could lead to war.
According to Israel’s Channel 7 News, US Secretary of State John Kerry has told “US senators to ‘stop listening to the Israelis’ partially out of fear that Bennett will pull apart the White House campaign to ease sanctions on Iran and promote the ongoing Geneva talks.”
Indeed, Bennett told the Brookings Institution that while he craves peace, he does not think that this is the appropriate time to gamble with Israel’s security. As Iran’s economy continues to be undermined by sanctions, he argues that this is the time to tell the Iranians: either you have a nuclear weapons programme or you have a working economy, but you cannot have both. “It’s like when you are in a boxing match and your opponent is laid down on the ground and the judge counts: six, seven, eight, nine, and at that very last moment you go and pick him up and relieve him of his pressure. Now is not the time for complacency,” he warned.
The Israeli minister stressed that the aim of the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the six major powers, which includes the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, should not only be to stop Iran’s nuclear programme, but also to dismantle it completely. Bennet said “I am convinced that if we increase the pressure on Iran, we can get the right deal.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency announced on Thursday in a report that over the past three months, Iran has halted plans to expand its nuclear production facilities. Netanyahu has played down the report’s significance, calling for continued pressure on Iran with new sanctions.
Israel, which is the only nuclear power in the region, considers Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons to be threatening to its existence and repeatedly emphasises that it will carry out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities if Israel feels that it is necessary.