Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on the international community to hold Iran accountable for its nuclear program, hinting at the possibility of military action if world powers do not act.
“Iran is blatantly violating the IAEA commitments,” Bennett said on Tuesday morning at the Jerusalem Post Conference at the Museum of Tolerance in downtown Jerusalem.
“We’re not going to wait. I expect the global powers to hold them accountable,” he emphasized.
“That would be the peaceful route. There are other routes,” Bennett warned.
In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 JCPOA nuclear accord and began reimposing sanctions. Tehran has gradually rolled back its nuclear commitments since 2019.
Talks in Vienna on a return to the deal are expected to restart in the coming weeks, for the first round since hardline President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August.
In his address, Bennett called for Israel to show leadership on addressing global problems, especially COVID-19, “radical Islamic terror,” political polarization, and climate change.
He also laid out his overarching understanding of Israeli politics, calling it a “three-way tug-of-war” between the religious, the left, and the nationalist right wing.
“I’m happy there are Haredim, but we need to limit their political sway,” he said. “I wouldn’t want an Israel without a left wing; while clearly I feel differently on many issues, I’m happy there’s that counter so we can debate it.”
He said his government was pursuing policies that might be unpopular but were right for the country, pointing at raising the retirement age for women and spending NIS 150 billion on a Tel Aviv metro system.
Before Bennett’s address, Isaac Herzog revealed one of his top priorities as president, pledging that promoting tolerance would be “a focal point” of his tenure.
He argued that “the lack of tolerance has resulted in two interconnected challenges… a crisis of liberal democracy on the one hand, and a crisis of the liberal world order on the other.”
Herzog said that both crises are caused by a failure to engage respectfully with people who don’t hold the same political views.
“I see my role as the president of Israel,” he continued, “to build bridges between the parts of this marvelous, diverse, and wonderful community and among the many extensions of our cherished family — which means Jews all around the world.”
Speaking after Bennett, World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder called for Jewish unity, blasting the Likud party for refusing to work with the current Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid government, and insinuating that this refusal was benefiting Iran.
“We have so many enemies out there — why on earth are we fighting each other?” he asked emphatically. “Why can’t Likud work with the new government? Is a political victory that important that you’re willing to jeopardize the future of the Jewish state? Is winning a political battle that important that you can give aid and comfort to Iran?’
The conference, titled “The Future is Now,” features senior Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, and past US officials former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.