Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose last nine years in office have largely been defined by efforts to prevent and then scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, thanked and praised US President Donald Trump for doing just that Tuesday night.
“Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran,” Netanyahu said in English just minutes after Trump’s dramatic announcement in the White House.
“Israel has opposed the nuclear deal from the start because we said that rather than blocking Iran’s path to a bomb, it actually paves Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs, and this within a few years time,” he said.
The prime minister, who went head-to-head with former president Barack Obama in trying to convince him not to enter the agreement, said that the accord and the removal of sanctions has already led to “disastrous results.”
“The deal did not push war further away, it actually brought it closer,” he said. “The deal did not reduce Iran’s aggression, it dramatically increased it. And we see this through the entire Middle East.”
Netanyahu underlined, that despite the accord, Iran continues to develop ballistic missile capabilities and build missiles able to carry nuclear weapons to many parts of the world.
“As we exposed last week,” he added, “since that deal, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret nuclear weapon program. So if you leave all of this unchanged, all this combined is a recipe for disaster: a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world.”
This is the reason, Netanyahu continued, why Israel “thinks that President Trump did a historic move, and this is why Israel thanks President Trump for his courageous leadership, his commitment to confront the terrorist regime in Tehran, and his commitment to ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons – not today, not in a decade, not ever.”
In Hebrew, Netanyahu said that the international community now should act on three parallel planes.
First, he said, it needed to “stop this bad agreement, and prevent Iran from building an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Second, to stop the flow of money to the Iranian war machine through a return to the sanctions regime. Third, to stop Iran’s aggression in our region, especially in Syria. We saw the damage this agreement has already caused: the removal of sanctions on Iran didn’t turn it more moderate, but rather made it much more aggressive.”
In a clear warning to Iran against any military action against Israel from Syria, Netanyahu – who is scheduled on Wednesday to meet in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin –reiterated that Jerusalem is determined to prevent the Iranian army from entrenching itself in Syria.
“We will respond in force to any attack on our territory,” he said in Hebrew. “The army is ready, the army is strong, and those who text us will feel our strength.”
Reactions to Trump’s announcement poured in swiftly from across Israel’s political spectrum.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised Trump for his announcement, calling him the leader of the free world.
“Iran is a dictatorship that supports and funds terror and death all over the world. Iran itself is a terrorist entity that strives for nuclear weapons. This is a courageous step of a leader, and in the end the horrible and cruel regime will fall,” he said.
Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz called Trump’s decision “brave and historic,” and compared it to the US president’s behavior towards North Korea, saying the only way to stop dictatorships that want nuclear weapons is through sanctions and willingness to use force.
Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) called upon anyone who said Netanyahu couldn’t get the Iran deal canceled to “go eat their hat and apologize to him.”
Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US who pushed back against former president Barack Obama’s policies towards Iran, said: “A deadly threat has been lifted... The Middle East and the world will be safer and better able to stop Iran.”
He added that Trump’s announcement represents a chance for renewed Jewish unity.
“Many Israelis felt embittered by American-Jewish support for a nuclear deal that seriously endangered their security and even their future,” he said. “I call on all of our friends in the American community to rally around the president’s position and Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev compared Trump’s announcement to the Balfour Declaration, in which the British government committed to the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine. Balfour promised a homeland for the Jewish people and Trump guaranteed it forever.”
Regev also praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s determination in combating the Iranian nuclear threat.
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid thanked Trump for standing with Israel, and said Israel should use all its diplomatic might to enlist Europe, China and Russia to follow his lead and prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
“Just as in the past I worked with the government to cancel the bad nuclear deal, I will not make calculations of coalition and opposition this time, either,” he stated.
On the Left, however, politicians were less certain that canceling the deal was positive.
Zionist Union lawmaker Shelly Yacimovich said “the deal is flawed, but the situation could get worse to the point of accelerated nuclearization of Iran or the risk of a war. We should hope that the way will be found to a new agreement.”
Meretz chairwoman MK Tamar Zandberg called it “a bad decision that endangers the citizens of Israel and the entire world,” and said, “there is no reason to celebrate.”
And Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi called Trump a warmonger and said his decision is “a disaster that endangers the entire world.” His Joint List colleague MK Dov Henin said Trump and Netanyahu act as they do on Iran because they’re afraid of their criminal probes.