Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has told the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog that the Jewish state is ready to use its "right to self-defense" to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons.
In a meeting with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi on June 3 in Jerusalem, Bennett accused Tehran of deceiving the world about its atomic activities.
Bennett “expressed Israel’s deep concern regarding Iran’s continued progress toward achieving nuclear weapons while deceiving the international community by using false information and lies,” his office said in a statement.
The Israeli leader “emphasized the urgent need in mobilizing the international community to take action against Iran, using all means, in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons."
Bennett's warning comes amid stalled efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers aimed at preventing Iran from developing atomic weapons. The landmark deal lifted most sanctions in exchange for Iran's curbing its nuclear activities.
The deal collapsed after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement and reinstated biting sanctions on Iran.
Efforts by the administration of President Joe Biden to revive the deal began in Vienna in April last year but have since fizzled out.
Grossi's visit came after the global nuclear watchdog on May 30 said it still had questions that were "not clarified" despite long-running efforts to get Iran to explain the presence of nuclear material at three undeclared sites.
Bennett said Israel prefers diplomacy but "reserves the right to self-defense and to action against Iran in order to block its nuclear program should the international community not succeed in the relevant time frame."
Israel was a staunch opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal and welcomed the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement.
Israel is widely believed to be the only atomic power in the Middle East but the country refuses to confirm or deny that it has nuclear weapons.
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If Israel feels threatened by Iran, Iran likewise feels equally threatened by Israel. Therefore, the ideal situation is to declare the whole Middle East as a nuclear-free zone but this should entail that Israel relinquishes its considerable nuclear arsenal and Iran stops all its nuclear activities other than those earmarked for peaceful use.
The truth of the matter is that Iran has been thinking that if Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have defied the world and got away with nuclear weapons , why not me?
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London