Middle East

Israel says it will not be bound by any nuclear deal with Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that Israel would not be bound by any nuclear deal with Iran and would continue to consider itself free to act “with no constraints” if necessary.

Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed a week ago in Vienna. France’s foreign minister said on Friday that progress had been made, although time is running out.

“In regard to the nuclear talks in Vienna, we are definitely concerned… Israel is not a party to the agreements,” Bennett said in public remarks, in a briefing to a parliamentary committee.

“Israel is not bound by what will be written in the agreements, if they are signed, and Israel will continue to maintain full freedom of action anywhere any time, with no constraints,” he said.

Israel, which has long warned about Iran becoming a nuclear power, has called on countries to maintain a credible military option against Iran while they pursue an agreement.

Experts have questioned whether Israel, on its own, has the military capabilities to halt what it says is an Iranian quest for nuclear weapons while Tehran continues to deny that it seeks atomic arms.

Dr Yoel Guzansky, an expert in nuclear weapons proliferation and senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, told The Independent that the comments from Mr Bennett were meant to “preserve room for diplomatic manoeuvre”.s

“Israel is declaring to use force if necessary if push comes to shove but I think it’ll be very hard for Israel during the negotiations and perhaps even harder after to do something that will jeopardise agreement,” Dr Guzansky said.

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However, he added that Israel would struggle to independently lodge an attack against Iran but in a circumstance with no other alternative, Israel “would do its best”.

It comes as negotations between world powers continue in Vienna to restore the tattered 2015 nuclear deal – which the US quit under President Trump in 2018. Mr Bennett has previously said he is not opposed to a “good” nuclear deal between Iran and world powers but has held that Israel would still be free to manoevre militarily under any agreement.

“At the end of the day, of course there can be a good deal,” Bennett told Israeli Army Radio. “Is that, at the moment, under the current dynamic, expected to happen? No, because a much harder stance is needed.”

Israel’s foreign minister issued a similar sentiment to Mr Bennett earlier this month stating that Israel does not need permission to strike Iran.

“Israel will do whatever it needs to do to protect its security. And we don’t need anybody’s permission for that. That’s been the case since the first day we established this state,” Lapid told Israel’s Channel 12 on the last day of 2021.

Talks to reinstate the Iran nuclear deal (known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)) and bring Iran back into compliance began in May 2021, after Joe Biden succeeded Mr Trump as US president.

If the negotiations were to fail and Iran was confirmed to have violated the deal, all UN sanctions would automatically “snap back” in place for 10 years, with the possibility of a five-year extension.

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