Israeli opposition leaders on Saturday called for further sanctions on Iran to punish Tehran for its support of terror, but said the US should not pull out of the nuclear deal.
The calls came a day after US President Donald Trump announced that he would not recertify the Iranian nuclear deal, while not withdrawing from the pact, and outlined a new, tougher approach toward Tehran.
Trump said he was launching a tougher strategy to check Iran’s “fanatical regime” and warned that 2015’s landmark international nuclear deal could be terminated at any time.
Speaking at an event in the southern city of Beersheba, Labor party leader Avi Gabbay praised Trump’s speech and said he hoped that Trump would follow through on his vow to crack down on Iran.
“We have to continue to press for greater sanctions, specifically relating to (Iran’s support for) terror,” Gabbay said. “I hope that Trump will also carry out the second stage and not just be satisfied with speeches.”
Gabbay, who said Iran was a threat to Israel, but not “an existential threat,” also criticized the Israeli government for not being involved in the formulation of the Iran deal, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bitterly opposed. Gabbay said Israel needed to be involved in the “diplomacy and closed-door discussions.”
“Last time we fled from that. We made all the speeches but we were not in the room so we did not influence the deal,” he said.
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon also called for the deal with Iran to be upheld.
“It would be a big mistake to cancel the nuclear deal with Iran,” Ya’alon said, calling instead for Trump to impose heavy sanctions on Tehran for its continued support of terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Ya’alon was a hawkish defense chief from the Likud party until he was ousted by Netanyahu over a series of disagreements. He has vowed to challenge Netanyahu in the next elections.
Netanyahu on Friday welcomed Trump’s announcement that he would not recertify the nuclear accord with Iran, saying Trump had “boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime.”
In a video posted to YouTube, the Israeli leader said: “If the Iran deal is left unchanged, one thing is absolutely certain — in a few year’s time, the world’s foremost terrorist regime will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons.”
In a much-anticipated White House speech, Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the accord, but “decertified” his support for the agreement and left its fate in the hands of Congress.
“We cannot and will not make this certification,” he said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”
And, outlining the results of a review of efforts to counter Tehran’s “aggression” in a series of Middle East conflicts, Trump ordered tougher sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and on its ballistic missile program.
Trump said the agreement, which defenders say was only ever meant to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, had failed to address Iranian subversion in its region and its illegal missile program.
The US president said he supports efforts in Congress to work on new measures to address these threats without immediately torpedoing the broader deal.
“However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said, in a televised address from the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time,” he warned.
Trump announced targeted sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards, a key instrument of Tehran’s military and foreign policy that the president described as “the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia.”
He said he is authorizing the US Treasury Department to “further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates.”
But the US leader backed away from designating the Guards Corps as a terror group, a move that would have triggered a slew of sanctions and almost certain Iranian retribution.
Simultaneously, the US Treasury said it had taken action against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards under a 2001 executive order to hit sources of terror funding and added four companies that allegedly support the group to its sanctions list.
Trump said he planned to ensure “Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon.”
He accused the Obama administration of lifting sanctions on Iran as part of the 2015 nuclear accord “just before” they could cripple the regime and bring it to collapse.
“The Iran deal is one of the worst and one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” he said. “In just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards nuclear weapons breakout… What is the purpose of a deal that, at best, only delays” Iranian nuclear ambitions, he asked.
Furthermore, Trump said Tehran had failed to live up to certain parts of the agreement and was “not living up to the spirit of the deal.”
The president said Iran was “under the control of a fanatical regime” that has “spread death, destruction and chaos all around the globe.” He warned that “history has shown that the longer we ignore a threat the more dangerous that threat becomes.”
“The regime’s two favorite chants are ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,’” he noted.
He described Tehran as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” saying it backs Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and “other terrorist networks,” and warning of “the increasing menace posed by Iran.”
Trump accused Iran of “multiple violations of the agreement,” but was light on specific examples.
The president said Iran had on two occasions exceeded the 130-metric-ton limit on heavy water, and that Tehran had “repeatedly” said it would not allow inspectors onto military sites suspected of having been “part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.”