Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) said Saturday that a “bad deal” with Iran on curbing its nuclear program would “increase the need for Israeli [military] action.”
“If there will be a deal which would allow Iran to have the ability to ‘break out’ and build a bomb within six weeks, we cannot sit idly by in this situation and we will examine all the options,” Bennett told Channel 2 Saturday evening.
The Jewish Home leader’s latest statements came as top world diplomats were in Geneva Saturday working on a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, for the fourth consecutive day.
The goal is a six-month agreement to partially freeze Iran’s nuclear program while offering Iran incentives through limited sanctions relief. If the interim deal then holds, the parties would negotiate final stage deals to ensure Iran does not build nuclear weapons.
A key sticking point in the talks has been Iran’s claim to a right to produce nuclear fuel through uranium enrichment. Western negotiators want Iran to stop enriching to a level higher than its main stockpile and only a technical step away from weapons-grade uranium as part of such a deal. They also seek limits on overall enrichment, and a formulation that reduces the proliferation danger from a reactor Iran is building that will produce enough plutonium for up to two weapons once completed.
Earlier this month, Bennett was dispatched to the United States to lobby the US Congress and the public against easing sanctions on Iran in the framework of a possible deal which would see Tehran curbing its nuclear program, just as the Obama administration urged for more time for diplomacy, arguing against increased sanctions.
“If we’re serious about pursuing diplomacy, then there’s no need for us to add new sanctions on top of the sanctions that are already very effective and that brought them to the table in the first place,” President Barack Obama said at a White House press conference last week.
Bennett, who was interviewed by every major US news network during his trip, said his efforts “created a certain effect which led to clear parameters for considering the Iran deal.”
Speaking at the Brookings Institute in Washington last week, Bennett told a US crowd that a nuclear deal was possible, but only if the West dialed up sanctions instead of offering to ease up on them.
“I am convinced that if we ratchet up the pressure we can get the right deal,” Bennett said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have consistently warned against easing sanctions on Iran and have called the increase the pressure, arguing that the punitive measures are what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.
Israel has also strongly opposed any deal that would leave Iran with the capability to quickly construct a nuclear weapon, leading Netanyahu and others to publicly clash with the US over what they see as a flawed potential agreement.
In an interview before his US trip, Bennett said that “the survival of Israel and the security of the Western world” hinged on dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, and not merely “clicking on the pause button.” Bennett said that if, in 10 years’ time, “a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York,” it will “because of concessions that happened in recent days.”