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February 20, 2022 4:42 pm

Israel Expects ‘Shorter, Weaker’ Iran Nuclear Deal Soon: ‘Preparing for Day After’

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. Photo: Government Press Office.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that Iran and world powers may soon agree to a nuclear deal that is “shorter and weaker” than its controversial predecessor, and “is likely to create a more violent and less stable Middle East.”

Nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers in Vienna “are advancing quickly,” Bennett said at the outset of his weekly cabinet meeting. “The new apparent agreement is shorter and weaker than the previous one.”

Bennett’s comments come as officials indicate the approach of a make-or-break point to rekindle the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the Trump administration abandoned in 2018. The JCPOA offered Iran significant sanctions relief in exchange for temporary restrictions on its nuclear program — measures Israeli leaders and other critics said were insufficient.

Speaking before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Bennett disclosed that during the ongoing Vienna negotiations, Iran demanded the removal of its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from the US-designated list of foreign terrorist organizations.

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Another Iranian position, which Bennett claimed Washington has not yet agreed to, is closing investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

The Israeli premier warned against returning to a deal based on the timeline set in 2015, which stipulated that major restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would expire in 2025.

“If the world signs the agreement again — without extending the expiration date — then we are talking about an agreement that buys a total of two and a half years, after which Iran can and may develop and install advanced centrifuges, without restrictions,” Bennett maintained. “This would mean ‘stadiums’ of centrifuges.”

In return, Iran will “receive tens of billions of dollars and the lifting of sanctions,” which will be used to fund terrorism in the region, endangering locals as well as American forces, the prime minister cautioned.

“We are organizing and preparing for the day after, in all dimensions, so that we can maintain the security of the citizens of Israel by ourselves,” he said.

In a meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris during the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz emphasized that oversight needs to be increased in any new nuclear agreement with Iran. He further pointed to an increase in Iranian aggression, “not just in the nuclear program but also in its regional attacks.”

“Iran takes over failed states, forcing them to defend Iranian interests, while committing severe human rights violations,” Gantz remarked. He accused the regime of exploiting civilian transit routes in the air and sea to covertly transfer weapons.

The defense chief also raised concerns about recent attempts by Iran-backed Hezbollah to challenge Israeli “sovereignty.” Last week, a drone launched by the Lebanese terrorist group was shot down in Israeli air space, just a month after the Israeli army downed another Hezbollah drone that breached its territory.

“In this context — I have a clear message for Hezbollah,” Gantz said. “If we are required to respond and to attack in order to defend ourselves, we will do so and we will cause great damage to the terror organization and its surroundings.”

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