Netanyahu Asserts Israel Will Be Iran's Watchdog
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday, “Iran has not relinquished its ambition to obtain Nuclear weapons.”
(Credit: Pool photo by Dan Balilty)
(Credit: Pool photo by Dan Balilty)
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warned on Sunday that his nation would ensure that Tehran never obtains nuclear weapons, while also taking credit for keeping Iran from already having them.
Mr. Netanyahu has been an open and vocal opponent of the deal with Iran. Speaking at the start of the regular weekly cabinet meeting, Mr. Netanyahu said, “Israel’s policy has been and will remain exactly what it has been: not to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”
He also said that the recent accord would strengthen and embolden Iran’s leaders, since the lifting of most sanctions would free up money for Tehran to arm and support the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Shiite militias and Israel’s enemies in the region, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
“What is clear is that Iran will now have more resources to dedicate to their terrorism and aggression in the region and in the world, and Israel is prepared to deal with any threat,” he said.
Mr. Netanyahu believes, as he said in a statement issued late Saturday, when it became clear that the United Nations would accept Iran’s partial dismantling of its nuclear infrastructure in what has been called “implementation day,” that “Iran has not relinquished its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons.”
He said on Sunday that Israel would strengthen its defenses, increase its intelligence resources and “warn of any violation” of the Agreement, while urging the United States and the other members of the United Nations Security Council to reimpose harsh sanctions on Iran if it violated the deal.
“Without an appropriate response to every violation, Iran will surmise that it can continue to develop nuclear weapons, to destabilize the region and to spread terrorism,” he said.
The United States is maintaining and even increasing other sanctions on Iran for non-nuclear actions, like support of terrorism and violation of United Nations resolutions on testing of ballistic missiles.
Mr. Netanyahu’s harsh opposition to the accord and his criticism of President Obama for being naïve about Iran — including in a speech to the United States Congress last year — infuriated the White House and strained relations with Washington, by far Israel’s most important ally.
Yet with the agreement now completed, Mr. Netanyahu has spoken less about it in public and on Sunday seemed to try to make the best of what he considers a bad deal, saying that Israeli efforts had put a nuclear weapon out of Iran’s reach for the time being.
“If it weren’t for our efforts leading the way in enforcing the sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran would have had a nuclear weapon long ago,” he said.
Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser and major general, pointed out that Israel was hardly alone in disliking the Iran nuclear deal, which has also been sharply criticized by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the gulf states. “I think in the Middle East most of the countries, most of the leadership do not like this agreement,” he told Israel Radio on Sunday.
For Israel, he said, “the agreement is an additional factor in the behavior of the State of Israel like any other given that exists in the Middle East.”
He said he was not surprised that Iran would live up to the agreement it struck with the United States and other world powers — because it favors Iran. “It is an excellent agreement for Iran and therefore Iran will fulfill it down to the last detail,” Mr. Amidror said.
“It has to rebuild its economy and enter the circle of international legitimacy because it can make, within this agreement, very great strides forward in the area of missiles and in the areas of nuclear capability,” he said. “One would have to be a complete idiot not to fulfill this agreement at least in the first five to 10 years.”
The main question now for Israel is whether the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will monitor Iran’s compliance with the deal, acts in a way “more political or more professional,” Mr. Amidror said. He also wondered “how much effort American intelligence will make, despite the agreement, to try to find Iranian violations.”
For the moment, he said, he had confidence in Israel’s developing system of antimissile defenses, especially the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, which are the country’s main defense against any potential Iranian missile strike.
Also on Sunday, in a continuing wave of stabbing attacks on Israeli security forces and civilians by Palestinians, a woman was killed in her home in the Israeli settlement of Otniel, south of Hebron, by a Palestinian who fled the scene, the Israeli Army said.
Names were not immediately released, and the army was searching nearby Palestinian villages for the attacker.
The attack is believed to be the first such stabbing inside a settlement home in the last three months.
Earlier on Sunday, a Palestinian who attacked a soldier near Nablus was fatally shot. The soldier suffered minor injuries. And a Palestinian woman was arrested near the settlement of Kiryat Arba carrying a knife, according to the Israeli authorities.
Since Oct. 1, 2015, 24 Israelis and 155 Palestinians have been killed, most of the latter after they attacked or attempted to attack Jews, others during protests and clashes.
Israel Radio named the dead Israeli woman as Dafna Meir, age 38 or 39, a hospital nurse and mother of six, including two foster children. Other news reports said that her three youngest children were at home during the attack but were unharmed. Mr. Netanyahu issued a statement, saying: “In the name of all Israelis, I want to embrace and support the family. All of us are hurting and share in your painful grief. We will find the terrorist, and he will pay the full price for this heinous murder.”
A version of this article appears in print on January 18, 2016, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Netanyahu Asserts That Israel Will Not Take Its Eyes Off Iran.