Netanyahu: ‘A grave mistake’ if Israel updated US before striking Iranian sites

After report says Biden administration was consulted before pair of alleged Israeli attacks, ex-PM claims current government ‘opposes an attack’ on Islamic Republic

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Knesset faction meeting of his opposition Likud party on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Knesset faction meeting of his opposition Likud party on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday hit out at the government after a report said Israel consulted with the United States before carrying out attacks earlier this year on an Iranian nuclear facility and a missile base.

“I saw the report in the New York Times that Israel is updating the United States regarding its operations and plans vis-a-vis Iran. If this is true, this is a grave mistake,” Netanyahu said during a Knesset faction meeting of his Likud party.

According to the report Saturday, Israel spoke with the US ahead of an attack in June on a facility in Karaj used in the construction of centrifuges needed to enrich uranium. It did so again before allegedly striking a secret missile base belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in September.

The strike in Karaj occurred some 10 days after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s power-sharing government was sworn in, replacing Netanyahu as premier.

The New York Times report said that in the wake of the consultations, the White House praised Bennett’s government “for being far more transparent with it” than Netanyahu had been.

“It’s no secret that the current government opposes an attack on Iran,” Netanyahu claimed during the faction meeting. His basis for this assertion was not clear, as the current government has echoed the previous one in its aggressive posture toward Iran and its nuclear program.

Netanyahu continued, “Therefore the pledge by Bennett and Lapid to update the US administration in advance and its policy of ‘no surprises’ is in effect an invitation to thwart any significant operation that can stop the nuclear program.”

The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

Netanyahu has previously attacked the government for agreeing on a “no surprises” policy with the US. But under the previous government senior Israeli officials also agreed in talks with the US there would be “no surprises” on the matter and that disagreements would be addressed behind closed doors, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Times of Israel at the time.

Since taking office, Bennett has adopted a generally similar approach on Iran to Netanyahu’s. Bennett is opposed to a US return to the deal just as Netanyahu is and in a recent call urged US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to immediately walk out of talks aimed at reviving the deal rather than capitulate to Iran’s “nuclear blackmail.”

The main difference in the new government’s policy has been a stated desire to avoid public spats with the US, which were front and center when the original deal was being negotiated by the Obama administration in 2015. Netanyahu gave a speech then to a joint session of Congress — coordinated behind the back of then-president Barak Obama — during which he lobbied against the agreement. The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed several months later nonetheless.

US President Joe Biden (right) meets with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 27, 2021. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

The United States has participated indirectly in the ongoing talks in Vienna because it withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-US president Donald Trump. US President Joe Biden has said that he wants to rejoin the deal.

Following the US decision to withdraw and reimpose sanctions against Iran, Tehran has ramped up its nuclear program again by enriching uranium beyond the thresholds allowed in the agreement. Iran has also restricted monitors from the United Nations atomic watchdog from accessing its nuclear facilities, raising concerns about what the country is doing out of view.

Meanwhile, Israeli and American military leaders are set to discuss possible military drills to practice destroying Iranian nuclear facilities in a potential worst-case scenario, a senior US official said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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