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Netanyahu scolds visiting British FM for rejecting Iran sanctions

Prime minister tells Dominic Raab that Israel expects London to back US bid for snapback sanctions, warns of nuke dangers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from R) and his staff meet with British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and his team at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 25, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from R) and his staff meet with British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and his team at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 25, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed disappointment over the UK’s opposition to the imposition of snapback sanctions on Iran, during a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Netanyahu told Raab that Israel expects the UK to change its stance toward Iran and join the US push for restoring sanctions, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Look at Iran’s aggression today, without a nuclear weapon. What a huge danger Iran would be to the entire world if it did get a nuclear weapon,” he said.

The UK on Thursday joined other members of the Security Council in rebuffing a bid by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reinstate the sanctions, despite the US having abandoned the deal, at Israel’s urging, in 2018.

There was no immediate statement from Raab or his office regarding Tuesday’s meeting.

Netanyahu echoed the sentiment expressed by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in the top diplomat’s meeting with Raab hours earlier.

“Lifting the embargo will lead to accelerated arming by Iran,” cautioned Ashkenazi, during the meeting.

Raab also met Tuesday with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who sounded a similar alarm.

“We must find a way to reactivate the arms embargo on the Iranians,” Gantz told Raab, according to Gantz’s office.

Raab was on a brief trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which the British Embassy in Israel has billed as intended to push for renewed dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

But the Israeli leaders who Raab met on Tuesday were more concerned with Iran, according to press statements.

The appointment of Israel’s new ambassador to the UK, former deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely of Likud, was believed to also be on the agenda of the Raab-Ashkenazi meeting. Hotovely’s appointment is awaiting approval by London, where she is considered a controversial figure, as a prominent supporter of settlements and opponent of Palestinian statehood.

The trip marks the first official visit to Israel by Raab.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Downing Street, in London, September 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

“Israel’s suspension of annexation is an important step towards a more peaceful Middle East,” Raab said in a statement released by his office ahead of the trip. He was referring to Netanyahu’s agreement to suspend his plan to annex some 30 percent of the West Bank, including all the settlements and the Jordan Valley, as one of the conditions of the August 13 normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Britain’s Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson, is considered a friend of Israel, but opposes some of the Netanyahu government’s signature policies, including the proposed annexation.

In early July, Johnson penned an op-ed for a major Hebrew-language daily, in which he called himself a “passionate defender of Israel,” but said the UK would not recognize Israeli claims in the West Bank that are not accepted by the Palestinians as well.

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