Bennett: 'Shorter, Weaker' Nuclear Deal May Come Soon, Would Embolden Iran

'Israel will never come to terms' with a nuclear Iran, Gantz says at security conference in Munich, urging 'action' even with new deal

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting via video conference in Tehran, last week.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting via video conference in Tehran, last week. Credit: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/WANA/Handout via Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A new agreement being negotiated by Iran and world powers is "shorter and weaker" than the 2015 deal on Tehran's nuclear program, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told cabinet members on Sunday.

"We may see an agreement in a short while," Bennett said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting as parties hold talks in Vienna. "We're preparing for the day after on all levels, so that we can keep Israeli citizens safe on our own."

According to the Israeli prime minister, "If the world signs the agreement again – without extending the expiration date – then we are talking about an agreement that buys a total of two and a half years." Measures capping Iranian nuclear activity in the original agreement, which the United States withdrew from in 2018, will expire in 2025, but it remains unclear whether the draft agreement sticks by the same time frame.

Since the 2015 agreement was signed, "the Iranians significantly increased their enrichment capabilities," Bennett said. The new agreement would "only buy us two and a half years, after which Iran may develop and install advanced centrifuges without any restrictions."

Tehran would also get "tens of billions of dollars and the lifting of sanction – meaning a lot of money. That money will eventually be used for terrorism in the region," according to Bennett, which he said would threaten Israel, other Middle Eastern countries and U.S. forces in the region.

A majority of Iran's parliament issued a statement of conditions to be met if Tehran is to rejoin the 2015 deal, the country's official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday.

The 250 parliamentarians stated that U.S. and European parties should guarantee not to exit a revived agreement and that the "snapback mechanism" will not be triggered by them. It also demanded the lifting of all U.S. sanctions in a verifiable process.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Benny Gantz addressed the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, warning that Iranian aggression is rising, and that “All steps must be taken to ensure that Iran never becomes a nuclear-threshold state. The world must never come to terms with it and Israel will never come to terms with it.”

If a new nuclear deal is signed, he said, “action must be taken to ensure that Iran does not continue to enrich [uranium] in additional facilities, and oversight must be increased.”

“A nuclear deal, if signed with Iran, does not mark the end of the road,” he said. “It is essential that the IAEA continues to investigate and monitor open files. We must ensure that the advanced centrifuges are not found in other facilities. Development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads must be stopped.” He added that the expiration of some of the deal’s clauses should not be interpreted as “an expiration date that enables Iran to revisit its nuclear ambitions.”

In that speech, Gantz also praised the Abraham Accords between Israel and a handful of Arab states, and further warned against Iran’s entrenchment in the region and threats toward stability in the Middle East. “We view with great concern the attacks conducted against our partners in the region,” he said. “Attacks that according to our assessments are being carried out under the guidance and approval of Iranian leadership, employing weapons – some of which are produced in Iran, and implementing operational know-how gained in Iran.”

On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said at the Munich Security Conference that Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington could succeed “at the earliest possible time” if the United States makes the necessary political decisions."

"I would like to emphasize here that we are ready to achieve a good deal, at the earliest possible time, if the other side makes the needed political decision," Amirabdollahian said in a panel session.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told participants at the annual conference that Iran nuclear talks have come a long way over the past 10 months and “all elements for a conclusion of the negotiations are on the table.” But he also criticized Iran for stepping up its enrichment and restricting inspections by monitors from the United Nations nuclear agency.

During that conference, Gantz met with many of his international counterparts, against the backdrop of an encroaching deal. As he met with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, "I expressed my gratitude to U.S. President Biden and the VP for their commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran," he tweeted after their discussion. "I told her that any future agreement must include consistent enforcement by the IAEA in addition to handling the open files in the nuclear program."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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