An Israeli minister in the ruling Likud party has warned that if the United States is to return to the Iran nuclear deal under the new administration of President-elect Joe Biden, then Israel will be forced to take action itself against Iran's nuclear programme.
Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, reportedly a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in an interview yesterday with the Israeli new outlet Kan: "If the United States government rejoins the nuclear deal – and that seems to be the stated policy as of now – the practical result will be that Israel will again be alone against Iran."
Hanegbi stated Israel's belief that the US' re-entry into the nuclear deal means that Iran "will have received a green light from the world, including the United States, to continue with its nuclear weapons program."
"This of course we will not allow," he warned. "We've already twice done what needed to be done, in 1981 against the Iraqi nuclear program and in 2007 against the Syrian nuclear program," he said, recalling Israel's air strikes on the two countries' nuclear reactors.
Throughout his election campaign, Biden had expressed plans to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015 between Iran and world powers consisting of the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia. The deal, in which Iran agreed to greatly limit its nuclear capabilities, was abandoned by the US in 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the agreement.
Iran then continued ramping up its nuclear programme over the past year after the US did not seem likely to reverse its decision, leading Biden to consider returning to the deal under his upcoming administration.
Before Biden takes office, however, reports emerged claiming Trump could issue an order to strike Iranian nuclear targets during his last week in office. When asked if this is likely, Hanegbi said that it is not expected: "The [Israeli] assessment is that nothing dramatic will happen during this week."
He also advised Biden not to "appease" Iran, saying that his administration should not "repeat the mistakes of the Obama administration – to appease the Iranians. This only increased Iranian aggression and defiance. They saw this as American weakness."
Hanegbi's warning that Israel could resort to destroying Iran's nuclear programme comes amid reports that Israel has struck Iranian military targets in Syria and Iraq over the past few weeks, the latest of which took place last night and killed 40 in Syria, including Syrian regime soldiers and militiamen linked to Iran.
The Likud minister did not confirm the strikes came from Israel, saying: "We don't acknowledge this or other strikes." He stated, however, that "the Iranians want permission from [Syrian President] Assad to act freely in Syria, to transform it into the model of Hezbollah. This is all to deter us from acting against its nuclear program."