JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will present US President Joe Biden with a plan to curb Iran’s nuclear program during his first official visit to the White House on Thursday.
Speaking to the Cabinet on Sunday, Bennett said his visit comes at a critical time for the region and he will attempt to persuade Biden against re-entering the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“I will tell President Biden that it is time to stop the Iranians, to stop this thing, not to give them a lifeline in the form of re-entering into an expired nuclear deal,” Bennett said, adding that the nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers “is no longer relevant.”
Both the American and Israeli leaders want to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon but disagree on strategy.
The Biden administration wants to change and re-enter the Iranian nuclear deal to curb the program. The deal provides sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for limits on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Former President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the deal in 2018, arguing that Iran made the deal in bad faith and was pursuing nuclear weapons – a claim Iran vehemently denies.
Bennett opposes the nuclear deal and has said Israel is ready to face Iran on its own if it must. Meanwhile, Iran continues to enrich uranium past the limits set by the nuclear deal and has been blamed for attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf.
“Iran is advancing rapidly with uranium enrichment and has already significantly shortened the time that it would take for them to accumulate the material required for a single nuclear bomb,” said Bennett.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said earlier this month that Iran is “10 weeks away” from acquiring enough material to develop a nuclear bomb.
According to Bennett, Israel has been working on an alternative plan for the past two months to “curb the Iranians, both in the nuclear sphere and vis-à-vis regional aggression.”
The prime minister also said Israel has improved ties with Jordan and is working on “restoring relations with the entire region so that together we can build a coalition to block Islamic and Iranian extremism.”
Earlier this year, world powers revived talks in Vienna aimed at restoring the Iranian nuclear deal. However, those talks were suspended ahead of the installation of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s new president earlier this month.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren says one of the ways to stop Iran is by hitting its economy.
“For example, you know, striking at its oil industry would hurt Iran,” Oren told CBN News. “It doesn’t have to involve civilian casualties, but Israel could deal a very severe blow to the Iranian economy.”
Oren says this upcoming meeting between Bennett and Biden is crucial for Israel.
“In that discussion, among other things, Israel has to make clear to the United States that it will never be bound by the Iran nuclear deal, that we’ll never give up our freedom of action,” he explained.
He says also says Israel needs to hear how the US plans to enhance Israel’s security should it re-enter the JCPOA.
Oren believes Israel’s security would be “greatly impaired by the renewal of that agreement. And there are various ways by improving Israel's capabilities, by various understandings with the United States in which our security can be improved, albeit not 100 percent because the JCPOA poses a strategic, if not existential threat to this country.”
In the meantime, Israel is waiting to see what impact the turmoil surrounding the US pullout from Afghanistan will have on the Biden administration’s willingness to take a strong stand against Iran.