Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, slated to travel next week to the US for his controversial address to Congress, seemed to put to final rest any speculation he might postpone it, telling his cabinet that March is a “critical” month vis-a-vis Iran’s nuclear program.
Referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s recent report expressing concern that Iran is hiding elements – possibly military ones – of its nuclear program, Netanyahu said Sunday it was “astonishing” that the talks with Tehran are still continuing.
“Not only are they continuing, there is an increased effort to reach a nuclear agreement in the coming days and weeks,” he said. “Therefore, the coming month is critical for the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers because a framework agreement is liable to be signed that will allow Iran to develop the nuclear capabilities that threaten our existence.”
Netanyahu reiterated his position that such an agreement is a significant threat to Israel and, “therefore, I will go to the US next week in order to explain to the American Congress, which could influence the fate of the agreement, why this agreement is dangerous for Israel, the region and the entire world.”
Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, who has come under a great deal of criticism for the way he handled the invitation to Netanyahu from House Speaker John Boehner, is set to be in Jerusalem this week to help the prime minister prepare for the visit.
Netanyahu is scheduled to leave next Sunday for Washington, deliver a speech to the annual AIPAC conference on Monday and to Congress on Tuesday, before flying home that same day. He is scheduled to be in the US for only two nights.
The prime minister’s comments came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was set to begin talks in Geneva with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Netanyahu also criticized the international community on Sunday for continuing its talks with Iran without being troubled by that country’s support of global terrorism.
The fact that Iran “continues its murderous terror activities around the region and the world, does not, unfortunately, bother the international community, which is continuing to talk with Iran about a nuclear accord that will allow it to build an industrial capacity to develop nuclear arms,” he said.
Netanyahu’s comments came before Mossad head Tamir Pardo and National Security Council head Yossi Cohen briefed the cabinet on the country’s current security challenges.
The foremost challenge, Netanyahu said, is Iran’s attempts to strengthen its foothold on Israel’s borders, even as it tries to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
In addition to Iran’s direct involvement with Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in the South, Tehran is now trying to open a third front against Israel on the Golan Heights under its direct command, he said.
Pardo, according to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, discussed Iran’s “global terrorist” activity, as well as the “terrorist infrastructure” it is deploying around the world.