Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Monday said that Israel has “other capabilities” to ensure the survival of the Jewish state against all threats, in a thinly veiled reference to Israel’s widely reported stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Lapid spoke at a ceremony marking the installation of a new head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC). Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has been largely quiet since resigning as prime minister — but who continues to hold the “Iran file” in the government — also spoke at the event.
Lapid said that Israel’s field of operation is made up of “defensive capabilities and offensive capabilities, and what the foreign media tends to call ‘other capabilities,'” an apparent reference to Israel’s reported nuclear weapons, which the Jewish state has never officially confirmed it possesses.
“These other capabilities keep us alive and will keep us alive so long as we and our children are here,” Lapid said.
Bennett said Monday said that Israel has for the past year been working hard to counter the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, investing “enormous resources” in the effort.
“A year ago we made a series of decisions whose aim was to refine assessments on our side to deal with the Iranian nuclear [weapons],” Bennett said. “We allocated enormous resources to close gaps that kept me awake [at night].”
“The Iranians are making progress, but the Israeli system has been working at full strength for the past year,” Bennett continued. “I know you will continue to work, regardless of the political upheavals in the country.”
A series of assassinations and attacks in Iran have been attributed to Israel in recent months, though Jerusalem rarely if ever publicly takes credit for such operations. In a rare interview last month — and rarer yet comments on Israeli activity in enemy countries — National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata said Israel had “acted quite a lot in Iran over the past year.”
Tensions between Israel and Iran have intensified in recent months, after the assassination of a top Iranian officer in Tehran, a number of other mysterious deaths of security personnel inside Iran, airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, threatening rhetoric from Iranian leaders and Iran’s increasing violation of nuclear agreements.
Outgoing IAEC chair Zeev Snir, who led the commission for the past seven years, made way for incoming Brig. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Edri, who was appointed by Bennett before he resigned as prime minister.
Snir said his time as chair of the commission was “unique and special, challenging and complex,” serving in an “organization that is incomparable.”
Edri said that leading the commission will enable him to “continue to be a partner of a large group of people involved in the security, resilience and future of the State of Israel.”
Lapid’s remarks came as world powers try to negotiate with Iran to revive a crumbled 2015 nuclear agreement that aimed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action offered Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program to prevent it being weaponized. But the deal fell apart after the US pulled out and reimposed sanctions after which Iran ramped up its program, enriching uranium beyond the agreed limits.
Israel has repeatedly said it reserves the right to strike Iran to prevent its achieving nuclear weapons capabilities.
The Israel Atomic Energy Commission was set up by Israel’s first prime minister David Ben Gurion in 1952, with what Lapid called “great vision.”