Amid numerous signs that the world powers will sign a nuclear agreement with Iran this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear Sunday that his rhetorical blitz against such an accord will continue unabated.
“This agreement, as it appears, confirms all of our concerns and even more so,” Netanyahu said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.
Even as the meetings in Lausanne were continuing, Iran’s proxies in Yemen were overrunning large segments of that country and trying to gain control of the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which is critical to the world’s oil supply, he said.
“After the Beirut-Damascus- Baghdad axis, Iran is carrying out a pincer movement from the south to take over and occupy the entire Middle East. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous to humanity and it must be stopped,” he said.
Prior to the cabinet meeting, the first caretaker meeting since the elections two weeks ago, Netanyahu met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who led a delegation of six Republican senators on a visit to Israel and Jordan.
At the start of the meeting, Netanyahu demonstrated that the post-election friction with US President Barack Obama – including Obama’s threat to reassess US Middle East diplomatic policy – will not bring Netanyahu to take a lower profile on the Iran issue.
He said the recent developments in Yemen are tantamount to Iran rampaging through Yemen and conquering the Middle East.
“This is correctly seen by all the countries in the Middle East as a strategic move [by Iran] to dominate the region, and therefore we are witnessing something quite unprecedented,” he said.
And even as this is taking place, the talks are continuing with Iran in Switzerland, talks “that from everything that we hear paves Iran’s way to the bomb,” he said.
“Will this increase or decrease Iran’s aggression?” he asked. “Will this make their move forward more moderate or will it make it more extreme? I think it’s a no-brainer. But this is happening before our eyes, and I think the most important thing is to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a path to the bomb and that Iran’s aggression in Yemen and elsewhere, including around Israel’s borders, is stopped.”
McConnell, speaking for the senators in the delegation, said the group “share[s] your concerns about this potential agreement, and there are options that the United States has in a wake of an agreement and if there is no agreement.
The option if there’s an agreement is a bill that we intend to vote on that enjoys bipartisan support to require that agreement come to Congress for approval.”
And if there is no deal, “then the view of this group, similar to your own, is that ratcheting up sanctions might be the best direction to take in the wake of a deal that does not come together.”
He also said he wants to “assure all Israelis that the US-Israel relationship is still, no matter what’s been said recently, in very, very strong shape on a bipartisan basis in the US Congress.”
Netanyahu said a similar message was relayed to him by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, with whom he spoke over the weekend following news that the Nevada senator is retiring.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, meanwhile, said that “one does not have to be an intelligence agency member to know that Iran is lying without blinking, that today it is the biggest danger to the stability of the Middle East and the entire world.”
Ya’alon added that the “Iranian appetite to export the revolution through terrorism will only get bigger; and with the seal of approval it receives as a legitimate state that is a touching distance away from being nuclear, the danger to the West and its allies in the Middle East will be enormous.”
Yossi Kuperwasser, who stepped down at the end of last year as director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, said in a briefing organized by The Israel Project that Israel has not begun to accept the idea that Iran may get a bomb.
“We have said many times that we retain the option of doing whatever we see as necessary in order to slow down the way the Iranians move forward toward a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Kuperwasser said that the Iranians have been trying to get a bomb for the last 27 years, and that they have not succeeded yet because Israel has managed to form a global opposition to this attempt, and because of “other things” that Israel, the Americans and Europeans have done during this period.
“There are ways to keep Iran from nuclear capability,” he said, without elaborating.
Kuperwasser said that in a post-agreement era, Israel will need to increase its intelligence efforts, “because my feeling is that the inspection that is going to be there will not be such that the international community will really know what is happening inside Iran.”
Furthermore, he said, once an accord is signed, “I’m afraid there will be a reluctance on behalf of many of those signed on the agreement to expose the violations of the Iranians, because this would be frustrating and problematic.”
Israel’s job in a post-accord era, he said, will be to be a “watchdog” to tell the world what is happening inside Iran. He said although this will cost Israel a great deal of “money and effort,” it is something it will need to do.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.