Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid urged the Biden administration not to capitulate to Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps off the terror organizations list.
“The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of people, including Americans. We refuse to believe that the United States would remove its designation as a terrorist organization,” Bennett and Lapid said in a joint statement issued on Friday.
The appeal to the White House from Israel’s top leadership follows reports which indicate that the U.S. is considering the Iranian demand. American and European diplomats involved in the negotiations in Vienna stressed that the removal of the terror designation is one of Tehran’s conditions in exchange to reviving the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA).
Former U.S. President Donald Trump added Iran’s IRGC to the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2019. It was the first time the U.S. labeled another nation's military as a terrorist organization, equating the IRGC with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Since the designation is not directly related to the nuclear deal, any decision in that realm would consist of a separate bilateral understanding between the U.S. and Iran, according to an article in Axios.
The Israeli government – which has remained largely quiet in its opposition to accelerating negotiations to revive the nuclear deal with Iran – did not sit out on the matter of IRGC.
“The attempt to delist the IRGC as a terrorist organization is an insult to the victims and would ignore documented reality supported by unequivocal evidence. We find it hard to believe that the IRGC’s designation as a terrorist organization will be removed in exchange for a promise not to harm Americans,” said Bennett and Lapid.
“The fight against terrorism is a global one, a shared mission of the entire world. We believe that the United States will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists."
“The Islamic Revolutionary Guards are Hezbollah in Lebanon, they are Islamic Jihad in Gaza, they are the Houthis in Yemen, they are the militias in Iraq. The IRGC are responsible for attacks on American civilians and American forces throughout the Middle East, including in the past year. The IRGC were behind plans to assassinate senior American government officials.”
“The IRGC were involved in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, they destroyed Lebanon and they are brutally oppressing Iranian civilians. They kill Jews because they are Jews, Christians because they are Christians, and Muslims because they refuse to surrender to them.”
“They are an integral part of the brutal machine of oppression in Iran. Their hands have on them the blood of thousands of Iranians and the crushed soul of the Iranian society.”
Many right -wing Israelis have criticized Bennett and Lapid’s belated expression of opposition to the negotiations in Vienna, and compared them to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relentless efforts to undermine the process leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Is it only me, or does the joint announcement by Lapid and Bennett resemble an adoption of the Netanyahu policy?” Israeli radio personality, Israel Cohen, wrote on Twitter. “Although Bibi would have never issued a statement on a Friday at 11 a.m., but rather fly and deliver a speech to Congress, wearing sackcloth and ashes until the decree would have been revoked. Meanwhile, Bennett is busy with the conflict in Europe, only dedicating a ‘harsh’ statement to the existential crisis along with his partner Lapid.”
Other Israelis suggested that de-listing the IRGC might be a coordinated spin by the Israeli government and the Biden administration. According to this theory, the White House is not seriously considering the move, but rather providing a fake concession that will not be fulfilled – allegedly thanks to pressure from the Israeli government – so that Bennett and Lapid would be able to present a diplomatic achievement on their behalf to the Israeli public once an unfavorable nuclear deal is signed.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.