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Gantz declares Israel can ‘seriously harm and delay’ Iranian nuclear program

Defense minister says Iran poses global problem not limited to the Jewish state, warns against reviving 2015 agreement as it would only delay a nuclear Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a Channel 13 News conference in Jerusalem on July 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a Channel 13 News conference in Jerusalem on July 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that Israel has the ability to cause serious damage to Iran’s nuclear program, and warned that reviving a 2015 pact with world powers to curb Iranian nuclear activities will only be a delaying tactic.

“Iran is a global problem. It is not just Israel’s private problem,” Gantz said during an interview at a Channel 13 conference in Jerusalem.

Asked if Israel has the ability to stop Iran’s nuclear development or merely delay it, Gantz said, “We are able to seriously harm and delay the nuclear [program].”

Regarding US President Joe Biden’s declared desire to revive the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed between Iran and world powers, Gantz said it is not an “unfounded concept.”

Still, “we are very unsatisfied with the agreement, which would be a bad agreement because it would be a temporary delay,” Gantz said. Such an deal would enable to Iranians to develop their economy and eventually legitimize a return to their nuclear program at a later date, he warned.

The JCPOA gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear program to prevent it obtaining nuclear weapons, a goal Iran denies it seeks. The pact steadily unraveled after the Trump administration pulled the US out in 2018 and slapped Iran with stiff sanctions. In response, Iran dropped its own commitments to the deal, boosting the program and increasing uranium enrichment beyond levels set in the deal.

Talks in Vienna earlier this year aimed to bring the US back into the JCPOA and Iran back into accordance with its terms, but the negotiations have been stalled for months amid a standoff between Washington and Iran.

Gantz said he doesn’t expect an agreement in the near future.

“I don’t see any big indications of that at the moment,” he said, but conceded it could not be ruled out.

Regarding possible US military intervention, Gantz pointed to remarks made by Biden himself earlier this month in which he said that, as a last resort, the US would use force to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

Gantz’s remarks came after earlier this week Iranian media reported the alleged capture of an Israeli-backed network of spies who were about to carry out a bomb attack on a “sensitive site” in Isfahan. Some Israeli outlets noted that the province is home to the Natanz nuclear plant, which has been targeted in attacks blamed by Tehran on Israel.

Israel has repeatedly said it reserves the right to act independently against Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent an existential threat to the Jewish state.

Gantz also commented on threats from Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah who on Monday said he would attack Israel’s Karish offshore natural gas field and that his group’s missiles can hit anywhere in Israel. Three Hezbollah drones were intercepted earlier this month heading toward Karish.

Gantz said Israel has a “high degree of deterrence” against Lebanon and Hezbollah, something that Nasrallah is well aware of.

An Israeli Sa’ar Class 5 Corvette guards the Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel at the Karish gas field, in footage published by the military on July 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Ties with Russia, which have been strained over a threat by Moscow to stop operations in Russia by Israel’s quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, which promotes immigration to Israel, could still deteriorate, Gantz said.

“We have very important ties with Russia,” he said, noting that Israel’s siding with the West over the Russian invasion of Ukraine requires delicacy.

“I think we need to act with sensitivity and hold dialogue with the Russians,” he said.

A delegation from Israel to Russia to discuss the diplomatic spat has been delayed in setting off for Moscow.

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