A War Against Iran Is Avoidable – but Israel Will Not Hide, Minister Says Day After Netanyahu Speech

While Israel has no interest in a confrontation, he also warned, it won't 'hide its head in the sand' to buy quiet as Iran digs in on its borders

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, February 7, 2018.
Meged Gozani

Israel has no interest in a conflict with Iran, but it will also not allow Tehran to establish a military presence along Israel’s northern borders, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday morning. “I don’t think that war is unavoidable,” he told Kan Bet public radio.

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“The head of the octopus behind activities that harm Israel in Lebanon, Syria and also in Gaza is Iran, and if we make a concentrated effort," he added, "I think we can avoid a round of conflict.”

While Jerusalem does not want a confrontation with Tehran, he said, on the other hand "it will not hide its head in the sand just to enjoy a few months of quiet because at the end, we will find Iran on our borders. We will not make that mistake, and that in itself is enough to the keep the danger of war at a distance."

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Bennett’s comments came after foreign sources attributed Sunday's major attack on Iranian missiles and troops in Syria to Israel. According to a report in The New York Times, based on sources in the Assad regime, some 200 Iranian long-range, surface-to-surface missiles were destroyed in the attack, and at least 16 people were killed, including 11 Iranians.

Bennett also commented on the intelligence information Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented Monday evening concerning Iran's nuclear weapons program. This information proves Tehran's nuclear agreement with the Western powers is based on lies and deceit, he asserted, adding, “When the basis of the agreement says that they do not have any military intentions and that military [nuclear] work was never undertaken – then it is clear that the agreement is fundamentally worthless."

On Monday evening Netanyahu revealed information from a huge cache of documents seized by Israeli intelligence, which he says proves that Tehran has lied to the world about its nuclear program for years, even after striking the 2015 nuclear accord with the major powers.

“Iran did not come clean about its nuclear program,” Netanyahu said during his prime-time address in English.

Iran has been “blatantly lying” when it says it doesn’t have a nuclear program, the premier noted, presenting what he claimed was proof that Tehran had developed and continued to develop its nuclear capabilities.

“We can now prove that Project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons,” he said. “We can also prove that Iran is secretly storing Project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House news conference about 30 minutes after Netanyahu’s speech, said that the prime minister's remarks “showed that I was 100 percent right” in criticizing the nuclear deal. 

These developments come as the United States' deadline with respect to restoring economic sanctions on Iran, on May 12, draws near.

Netanyahu spoke on the phone Monday evening with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the information he revealed about Iran’s nuclear project. The Prime Minister's Office commented on Twitter that Israel “will send in the coming days professional teams that will share with Germany and France the detailed material Israel obtained on Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Netanyahu also spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the intelligence materials seized from the Iranian archive. The two discussed events in Syria and agreed to meet as soon as possible. 

Netanyahu noted that he also plans to update British and Chinese leaders soon. 

For its part, Tehran blasted Netanyahu's presentation as “propaganda.” Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said before the speech that the prime minister is simply “the boy who can’t stop crying wolf.”