Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appeared to allude to Israel’s role in recent attack on Iranian nuclear site during a speech Thursday at a graduation ceremony for Israeli Air Force pilots .
“Our enemies know – not by statements, but by actions – that we are much more determined and much smarter, and that we do not hesitate to act when necessary,” Bennett said in his speech at the base. IAF Hatzerim aerial, outside of Beer Sheva.
His remarks came a day after an alleged drone attack on an Iranian centrifuge production facility outside Tehran, which allegedly damaged the site.
In his speech, one of the first since taking office as prime minister earlier this month, Bennett referred to the Israeli strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor almost 40 years ago.
The attack – dubbed Operation Opera – was the first implementation of what has become the Begin Doctrine, named after then Prime Minister Menachem Begin, which promotes military action – unilaterally, if necessary – in order to prevent enemy countries in the Middle East in the East from obtaining nuclear weapons.
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Bennett said Israeli prime ministers have always had a “sacred responsibility not to allow an existential threat to the State of Israel.” So it was Iraq, today it is Iran.
Speaking at the same event, Defense Minister Benny Gantz also touched on Iran’s nuclear program, threatening to carry out a military strike against it if necessary, as Israel did in the case of Iraq in 1981.
“As if time had not passed, today in Iran – like 40 years ago [in Iraq] – a murderous and dangerous enemy, who builds weapons of terror around the State of Israel, seeks to acquire a nuclear weapon to threaten Israel and the stability of the whole region, ”Gantz said.
In his remarks, the prime minister said Israel was breaking with the policy of its predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, to refuse to engage with the United States over its plan to join the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. previous Israeli government effectively refused to discuss the matter with the United States except to express its strong opposition to the move.
Bennett, however, said that if Israel would end up defending itself if necessary, Jerusalem would cooperate with the administration of US President Joe Biden on the issue.
“We would rather the world know that a brutal and fanatical regime like this … which is prepared to starve its people for years to complete in order to achieve its military nuclear program, that this is a regime that you can not reach agreement. Unfortunately, this is not the case, ”he said.
“We will continue to consult our allies, to convince, to speak, to share information and understandings, in deep mutual respect. But in the end, the responsibility for our destiny will remain in our hands and no other. We will act responsibly and prudently, ”Bennett said.
Gantz also said that Israel is cooperating with the United States on the Iranian nuclear issue and reserves the right to take action against Tehran.
“We are in contact with our American allies to ensure the security of Israel. If necessary, we will act as we always have. We will eliminate and prevent any threat, with stratagems, with initiative and – of course – with professional and diplomatic responsibility, ”said Gantz.
Wednesday’s drone attack reportedly hit the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, or TESA, in the town of Karaj, northwest of Tehran.
The TESA plant was tasked with replacing damaged centrifuges at Natanz and also produces more advanced centrifuges that can enrich uranium faster, according to an article published Thursday by the New York Times.
Tehran sought to play down the attack, saying it was unsuccessful, despite reports to the contrary from Iranian opposition sources. Iran has also failed to identify who it believes was responsible for the drone strike. The country has accused Israel of similar attacks on its nuclear program in the past.
A small quadcopter drone was used in the attack on TESA, according to the report, citing an unidentified Iranian source.
The drone was apparently launched from Iran, not far from the site, and succeeded in hitting the target, according to the Iranian source close to the incident, according to the report. However, the source was not sure if it caused any damage.
The centrifuge production site was on a target list that Israel presented to the Trump administration last year, at the same time as it suggested striking Iran’s uranium enrichment site at Natanz and assassinate Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a scientist who launched the country’s military nuclear program for decades. earlier, an intelligence source told the New York Times.
Fakhrizadeh was killed in November 2020 in an attack Iran blamed on Israel, while a mysterious explosion damaged a large number of centrifuges at the Natanz plant in April 2021. The former head of the agency Mossad spy Yossi Cohen virtually confirmed that Israel was behind the attacks in an interview earlier this month, given shortly after he left office.
The intelligence source said Israel’s campaign against Iran’s nuclear program was blessed by the Trump administration.
While Iran maintains that the Karaj facility is used for civilian purposes, it has been subject to United Nations, European Union and United States sanctions since at least 2007 for its involvement in the programs. nuclear and ballistics of Iran. The United States lifted these sanctions as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, but then reimposed them in 2018, when Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal.
The attack came as the United States and Iran – through intermediaries – negotiated a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. When Trump repealed the deal in 2018, he put in place crushing sanctions, which prompted Iran to also abandon the deal a year later, enriching more uranium and to higher purity levels than which was permitted under the agreement, as well as participating in other prohibited forms of nuclear research.
Iran’s uranium enrichment is a key talking point during negotiations in Vienna to revive the deal.
In an apparent effort to increase the pressure during these negotiations, Iran in April increased its uranium enrichment to 60% purity, bringing it closer to the 90% purity threshold for full military use, and shortening its uranium enrichment. potential “escape time” to build bomb – a goal the Islamic Republic denies.
Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon, but as it reneged on its commitments to the deal, it began enriching uranium to levels that the International Atomic Energy Agency said , are only wanted by countries aiming to build a weapon.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.