Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often used the backdrop of Holocaust Remembrance Day to warn of Iran’s nuclear aspirations and its threat to annihilate the Jewish state.
But perhaps it was never more poignant as it was on Wednesday.
Israel began official solemn observances of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem on Wednesday evening just hours before the U.S. announced plans to start unwinding some of the sanctions placed on the Iranian regime by the former administration.
“A nuclear agreement with Iran is again on the table,” Netanyahu said. “But history has taught us that agreements like this with extremist regimes are worth as much as garlic peel.”
Israel will prevent anything that threatens its existence, Netanyahu vowed.
“To our best friends I say – an agreement with Iran which paves its way to nuclear weapons that threaten us with destruction – an agreement like this will not bind us,” the prime minister said. “Only one thing binds us, to prevent those who seek to destroy us from carrying out their plans.”
“During the Holocaust we did not have the power to protect ourselves and we did not have the privilege of sovereignty. We had no rights, no state, and no defense,” Netanyahu continued. “Today we have a state, we have the power to defend ourselves and we have the natural and full right as the sovereign state of the Jewish people to protect ourselves from our enemies.”
Netanyahu’s strong words followed two days of mediated talks between the U.S. and Iran on renewing the Iranian nuclear deal. Afterwards, the U.S. State Department spokesman said that America is willing to lift sanctions on Iran that are “inconsistent” with the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We are prepared to take the steps necessary to return to compliance with the JCPOA, including by lifting sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA. I am not in a position here to give you chapter and verse on what those might be,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in 2015 by several countries including the U.S. under former President Barack Obama. Then-Vice President Joe Biden has said he wants his new administration to get back into the deal.
To that end, discussions – described as “constructive” – began this week in Vienna between the U.S. and Iran, mediated by the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday called the talks a “new chapter.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump – considered by many the most Israel-friendly U.S. president – withdrew America from the nuclear deal in 2018.
Alarmingly, in an announcement this week, Iran admitted it has manufactured 55 kilograms of uranium enriched to up to 20% – considered highly enriched and a big step towards weapons-grade – in violation of the country’s own law passed in January to limit production at 10 kilograms a month.
This is “up to 40%” faster than it should have.
“In less than four months we have produced 55 kg of 20% enriched uranium ... in around eight months we can reach 120 kg,” Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told state TV.
In light of this new information, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen is expected to travel to Washington for meetings with senior White House and U.S. intelligence officials to present “formal evidence of Iran's lies” which “conceals important elements about its nuclear program,” Channel 13 reported on Wednesday.
This comes after four Syrian soldiers were injured in an Israeli airstrike on Iranian-backed militia sites near Damascus overnight, SANA reported on Thursday. SANA said that air defense systems shot down a number of missiles. Israel also is reportedly behind an attack on an Iranian vessel in the Red Sea, allegedly operated by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS