Netanyahu convenes security cabinet to discuss Iran missile threat

At specially called meeting, prime minister also to brief members on diplomatic progress during his visit to Latin America and the United Nations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 72nd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP/Jewel SAMAD)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 72nd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP/Jewel SAMAD)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called a special meeting of his security cabinet following Iran’s testing of a ballistic missile that can reach Israel over the weekend.

The missile test, along with efforts to get world powers to cancel or fix the Iran nuclear deal, were the top priorities at the meeting, Israel Radio reported.

Netanyahu also planned to brief the body on his meetings last week in New York during which he held discussions with US President Donald Trump and separately with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

During the gathering, scheduled for 4 p.m., the prime minister was also expected raise the subject of the Iranian military presence in Syria, the Ynet website reported.

On Saturday, Iran said it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile, in defiance of warnings from Washington that it is ready to ditch the landmark nuclear deal over the issue.

Previous Iranian missile launches have triggered US sanctions and accusations that they violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday called the test a “provocation” to the United States and a threat to the entire free world.

“The ballistic missile that was fired by Iran is not only a a provocation and a slap in the face for the United States and its allies — and an attempt to test them — but also further proof of the Iranian ambitions to become a world power and threaten countries in the Middle East and all the countries of the free world,” Liberman said in a statement.

“Imagine what would happen if Iran would acquire nuclear weapons. That is what it is striving for. We cannot allow it to happen,” Liberman said.

Last Monday, Netanyahu met with Trump,  Netanyahu, focusing on the Iran nuclear deal and the Islamic Republic’s military expansion in the region.

Israeli officials have raised their concerns over Iran extending its military influence into Syria –in particular to areas near the border with Israel — by way of its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah that has been fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime as it battles against an insurgency now in its sixth year.

During his speech to the UN General Assembly last Tuesday, Netanyahu urged an end to the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran that saw the lifting of sanctions in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear program to prevent it producing weapons.

He also brought it up in his meeting with Trump. After the meeting, the White House said in a statement that the two men had discussed efforts to counter “Iran’s malign influence” in the Middle East, as well as “optimism in the region” about Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump shake hands prior to their meeting at the Palace Hotel in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 2017.(AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Trump has threatened to scrap and/or amend the agreement over the issue, saying that Iran’s missile program could give it the technical know-how for a delivery system for a nuclear warhead when a sunset clause in the deal expires in 2025.

He is due to report to Congress on October 15 on whether he believes Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. If he decides that it is not, it could open the way for renewed US sanctions and perhaps the collapse of the agreement. Trump said on Wednesday he had made his decision, but was not yet ready to reveal it.

Trump and Netanyahu also spoke about the moribund peace process with the Palestinians, with Trump telling Netanyahu there was a “good chance” such an accord could happen.

Netanyahu also held his first-ever public meeting with Sissi.

The two leaders had “a comprehensive discussion about the problems of the region,” according to a readout provided by the Prime Minister’s Office. Sissi “expressed his desire to assist in efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the region,” it said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, right, in New York on September 19, 2017 (Avi Ohayun)

Finally, Netanyahu was expected to brief the security cabinet on his visit to Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Latin America.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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