Israel will not wait for the international community to stop Iran’s “nuclear escalation,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Thursday, adding that Tel Aviv was ready to act independently if needed.
“Iranians are breaking everything that was agreed with them; they are bluffing in any aspect that one can think,” Gantz said in an interview with Fox News.
US President Joe Biden has been pushing for direct talks with Iran over the JCPOA, an acronym for the Iran nuclear deal, signed in 2015. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement and imposed heavy economic sanctions on Iran.
Iran’s president says the sanctions have cost Tehran around $200 billion.
But Israel and other countries in the region have been skeptical of a new deal that doesn’t include consultation with Tel Aviv and the Gulf. Barack Obama did not negotiate or include regional countries in the discussions that led to the 2015 deal.
Now, Iran is spreading its nuclear capabilities all across the country in order to use it “God forbid, or to use it as a deterrence canopy” in the midst of potential negotiations with the US, Gantz said.
“The Iranian nuclear aspiration must be stalled. If the world stops them before, it’s very much good. But, if not, we must stand independently, and we must defend ourselves by ourselves,” he warned, in an apparent reference that Israel could act without coordinating with Washington.
Gantz said Israel was constantly improvising its capabilities to strike and defend itself.
Asked about the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, Gantz said the group had “hundreds of thousands” of missiles.
The Israeli official shared what appeared to be a classified map. “This is a map of Lebanon. What you see there are ground forces, headquarters, launching sites, et cetera. Everything is aimed to civilian targets, and it is being conducted from civilian infrastructure,” Gantz alleged.
Asked if the map was a target list for Israel, he said: “This is a target map. Each one of them has been checked legally, operationally, intelligence wise, and we are ready to fight.”
Hezbollah and Israel fought to a stalemate in 2006. Since then, both sides have greatly expanded their arsenal and fighting capabilities.
On Wednesday, Hezbollah’s deputy leader Naim Qassem said his group was not looking for a war with Israel.
Analysts fear an all-out war between the two is inevitable. And they warn that if the Biden administration proceeds to negotiate with Iran without coordinating with Tel Aviv, there could be uncoordinated action against Iran and its proxies from Israel.
“Israel will go all out and do crazy ****,” if the US strikes a similar deal to the 2015 one with Iran, a former Trump official told Al Arabiya English. “We stopped them from doing a lot of crazy **** during our time, but I’m not sure this administration will be able to because there won’t be coordination if they push ahead with a deal and don’t include Israel.”