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On the brink of a nuclear deal, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz tells US VP Kamala Harris enforcement must be consistent

Israel officials are bracing themselves for a deal as early as this week or next

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at the Munich Security Conference, Feb. 19, 2022. (Photo: courtesy)

As the United States draws closer to a nuclear deal with Iran, Israel’s defense minister told U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris that any agreement must include strict enforcement of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz met Harris on Saturday night at the Munich Security Conference, which they are both attending.

“It is important that any future agreement with Iran will include consistent enforcement by the IAEA [the International Atomic Energy Agency] in addition to handling the open files in the nuclear program,” Gantz said in a tweet afterwards. “I also thanked her for the United States’ important role in maintaining stability in the Middle East, in the face of regional aggression perpetrated by Iran and its proxies.”

During a Cabinet meeting this morning, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett weighed in on speculation the talks of a nuclear deal are “advancing quickly” and said Israel is preparing to defend itself for “the day after.”

Bennett said that since the original signing of the deal in 2015, “the Iranians have made great strides in building their enrichment capability.”

The new agreement would give Iran two and a half years to develop and install advanced centrifuges, without restrictions, Bennett warned.

“According to the agreement, this would mean 'stadiums' of centrifuges. In return, the Iranians will currently receive tens of billions of dollars and the lifting of sanctions; that is a lot of money,” he said. “This money will eventually go to terrorism in the area. This terrorism endangers us, endangers other countries in the region – as we have seen recently – and it will also endanger American forces in the region.”

The exchange between Gantz and Harris took place as Israeli officials expect the deal to be signed as early as next week. Channel 13 news quoted an anonymous Israeli security official who called the renewed terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “spectacularly bad.”

The Times of Israel reported: “Referring to a leaked draft of the imminent accord, the source said Iran will not be required to destroy its advanced centrifuges under the revived agreement. Tehran will have to reduce its uranium enrichment levels, but it has already developed the capability to enrich at high levels. It will also be required to cease producing uranium metal, a crucial component of the bomb-making process. However, the source noted that Iran now has the knowledge to be able to manufacture such materials in the future.”

Channel 13 further reported that the official said Biden blames the previous administration for enabling Iran to become a “nuclear threshold state.”

Under former U.S. President Donald Trump, America withdrew from the deal in 2018 and instead exerted a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions on Tehran which had served to cripple the Iranian economy. Under Joe Biden, the U.S. has actively sought to return to the deal – which appears increasingly imminent these days – since he took office in January 2021.

Israel has long opposed the agreement and views the renewed version as even weaker than the original. This is one of the reasons for Gantz’s presence in Munich, where he will be meeting with diplomats and high-level government officials.

Here is Gantz’s full Twitter post: “This evening I met with Vice President Kamala Harris for a discussion on the unparalleled, strategic bond between Israel and the U.S. Our ties and cooperation contribute to the security of both our nations and to the Middle East region as a whole. I expressed my gratitude to U.S. President Biden and the VP for their commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran. I told her that any future agreement must include consistent enforcement by the IAEA in addition to handling the open files in the nuclear program. I also thanked her for the United States’ important role in maintaining stability in the Middle East, in the face of regional aggression perpetrated by Iran and its proxies. We also discussed the importance of expanding the Abraham Accords, the situation in the Ukraine, and the importance of pursuing confidence-building measures with the Palestinians. In addition, I updated the VP on a series of steps I plan to take in order to deepen cooperation with our neighbors in the region.”

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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