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December 22, 2021 4:08 pm

Israel Warns Against Iran’s ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ as US Seeks Joint Strategy on Nuclear Threat

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) meets with White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Jerusalem on Dec. 22, 2021. Photo: Ariel Hermoni/Israeli Ministry of Defense

Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned Wednesday that Iran is a “ticking time bomb” and called on the international community to recognize the urgent need to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, independently of the outcome of ongoing negotiations in Vienna.

“Iran is a ticking time bomb that threatens Israel and the whole Middle East,” Herzog said at the graduation ceremony of the Israel Air Force’s 183th flight course. “The Iranian nuclear threat must be neutralized once and for all, with or without an agreement. Iran can not be allowed to attain nuclear weapons capabilities.”

“I call on the international community not to underestimate the gravity of the nuclear threat,” Herzog said.

Progress has been slow since the seventh round of indirect talks to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers kicked off in Vienna on Nov. 29, as Tehran abandoned compromises achieved in previous sessions and made new demands. All the while, Israel has remained concerned about Iran’s advances toward nuclear weapons capabilities.

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Robert Malley, the chief US negotiator in the talks, said on Tuesday that there are only “some weeks left” to revive the accord, which is aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Critics warned that the original deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), failed to permanently block Iran’s pathway to a bomb.

Herzog’s comments come as President Joe Biden sent US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to Israel just before the Christmas holiday, to develop a “common strategy, a common outlook” that serves both countries’ interests. Sullivan told Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday that the US and Israel are both at a “critical juncture” on a “major set of security issues.”

“These days are pretty important,” Bennett said in his comments to Sullivan. “What happens in Vienna has profound ramifications for the stability of the Middle East and the security of Israel for the upcoming years. And that’s why it’s such a timely meeting.”

“The relationship between my government and the Biden administration, between Israel and the United States, is as strong as ever,” Bennett added. “And being so strong and having this meaningful friendship means that we can also talk openly and candidly about all the shared challenges that we are facing.”

Sullivan also met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz to discuss strategic security challenges and areas of cooperation, in particular the Iranian nuclear threat and Tehran’s regional aggression. IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and Defense Ministry Director General Amir Eshel were also present at the meeting.

Additionally, Gantz updated Sullivan on the Israeli defense establishment’s work to strengthen relations with the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid likewise said he spoke with Sullivan about “the strategy for combating Iran’s nuclear program and the way in which the US and Israel cooperate on this issue.”

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