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Israeli defense establishment reportedly divided over return to Iran deal

The report comes as negotiations over the Iran deal are set to resume after having stalled for the past three months

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Shin Bet Head Ronen Bar, April 24, 2022 (Photo: Israeli Defense Ministry)

While Israel opposes a bad nuclear deal with Iran, having none at all might delay preparations for an extensive military response to a nuclear Iran, some Israeli generals say.

According to a Yedioth Ahronoth report, members of Israel’s military leadership are in disagreement over whether such a deal should exist. 

The report comes with news that negotiations over the Iran deal are to resume after having stalled for the past three months, according to an announcement by European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell.

Borrell visited Iran over the weekend and reportedly contacted Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid before the trip to say that the EU wants to save the Iran deal. 

Lapid rebuked Borrell for a “worrying disregard for the welfare of our people,” as well as for the concerns raised by the Intentional Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s uranium enrichment activity.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby has said that a deal with Iran would serve “to get them back into compliance” and is “the best way to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons status.” Yet members of Israel’s intelligence agency suggest a deal like the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which provided sanctions relief in exchange for promises by the regime to restrict its nuclear program, would buy “at most” two-and-a-half years. 

At the 2025 sunset clause, the Islamic regime would be able to enrich as much uranium as it needs to build a nuclear-weapons arsenal.

As Israel faces continual threats of annihilation by Iran, a nuclear Iran is seen as an existential danger to the Jewish state. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has referred to Israel as “malignant cancerous tumor” that must “be removed and eradicated.” 

Four years ago, the United States withdrew from the 2015 JCPOA deal, with then-U.S. President Donald Trump deeming it insufficient. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi views a return to the Iran deal as dangerous while Mossad Director David Barnea thinks it would be a disaster – not only for Israel but for the world. 

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli generals who support returning to the JCPOA claim a bad agreement is better than none, as it allows for preparations to defend Israel against a nuclear Iran. 

These generals include head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aaron Haliva; the IDF’s intelligence research chief, Brig.-Gen. Amit Sa’ar; the head of the IDF’s strategic division, Brig.-Gen. Oren Setter; and the head of the Strategy and Iran Directorate, Maj.-Gen. Tal Kalman. 

Even Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, “understands” that returning to a deal is the least bad option for the Jewish state, according to Yedioth Ahronoth. 

Gantz wrote on Twitter that Israel is dealing with the Iranian threat “day and night as the most important and strategic issue” … “in coordination between all the security arms.”

Gantz added a reminder that “while giving freedom of opinion, the decisions are made by the political echelon.”


For years, Iran has funded terrorist groups around the world and the Middle East region, that have targeted the State of Israel, Israelis and Jews. The influx of finances into Iran from lifted sanctions would enable more funds to Iran’s terrorist proxies and allies in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

These funds could also further the development of Iran’s conventional (non-nuclear) weapons programs. Iran already has several missiles that can reach Israel, such as the medium-range ballistic missiles, Khorramshahr 2, which reaches up to 2,000 kilometers, and Shahab-3, which can reach up to 1,000 kilometers. 

“The IDF has admitted that Iran’s conventional missile threat is a major concern for Israel, which, despite its multi-layered air defenses, may not be able to contend with intensive missile barrages fired by Iran and its proxy groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon or Shiite militias in Iraq,” wrote Anna Ahronheim for The Jerusalem Post in November.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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