Gantz: Israel will do what it takes to prevent a nuclear Iran

“In the coming weeks, perhaps even in the coming days, a nuclear agreement may be signed between [world] powers and Iran,” warned the defense minister.

 Minister of Defense Benny Gantz speaks at a conference of the Israeli newspaper "Makor Rishon" at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Minister of Defense Benny Gantz speaks at a conference of the Israeli newspaper "Makor Rishon" at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israel will continue to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, even if a deal is reached between Tehran and the West, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday night.

“In the coming weeks, perhaps even in the coming days, a nuclear agreement may be signed between [world] powers and Iran,” he said at a graduation ceremony for naval officers. “Whether that happens or not, Israel will continue to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from becoming an existential threat and possessing nuclear capability.”

Pressure has been mounting on diplomats in Vienna who are seeking to finalize a deal regarding Tehran’s nuclear program.

The talks to restore the agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, directly involve Iran, the UK, China, France, Germany and Russia and indirectly the US.

Israel is not taking part in the talks, but we “will also continue our diplomatic activity because Iran is first and foremost a global problem, then a regional problem, and it is also a potential threat to the State of Israel,” Gantz said.

 IRAN’S CHIEF nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani arrives for closed-door nuclear talks in Vienna earlier this month. (credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters) IRAN’S CHIEF nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani arrives for closed-door nuclear talks in Vienna earlier this month. (credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

“We will continue to build our military force,” he said. “All means are valid.”

Israel will continue to work with its allies and develop regional alliances with countries that also face Iranian aggression, Gantz said.

“Even if an agreement is signed, we will never stop operating in diplomatic channels with the goal of tightening observation on Iran and with real and painful consequences for any violation [of the agreement] and progress in nuclear development,” he said.

Israel has said Iran is increasingly aggressive in the region while it negotiates with the West. At the same time, the war in Ukraine has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than a million Ukrainian civilians to flee.

“We are in a time when security stability in the world is being violated, equations are changing, alliances are being tested, and new alliances are being built,” Gantz said.

The war in Ukraine is reminding Israel that it could also face difficult threats in the coming years, such as fighting on several fronts simultaneously or existential threats, such as a nuclear Iran, he said.

“The lesson we learn [from this] is that alongside our relations with countries around the world, above all of them being the strategic relationship with the United States, Israel must have the capabilities to defend itself on its own,” he added.

Amid criticism that Israel is remaining silent on the sidelines of the war in Ukraine, Gantz said Jerusalem is willing to expand the aid given to the embattled country.

“Unfortunately, wars have not disappeared from the world,” he said. “We see the difficult and painful fighting in Ukraine, and we do not stand by idly. We are sending humanitarian aid, helping evacuate our citizens, absorbing immigrants and refugees and are willing to expand aid in ways that will stop fighting and save lives.”

Gantz met with US Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie on Thursday, the Defense Ministry said.

Gantz thanked McKenzie, who is nearing the end of his tenure, for his “service, leadership and partnership, as well as his commitment to the unparalleled defense ties and cooperation between the United States and Israel.”

Israel came under CENTCOM’s area of responsibility last September after the US Army realigned its territory zones.

In the meeting, Gantz stressed the importance of Israel’s integration into CENTCOM as a key factor in maintaining regional stability. The two also discussed Iran and the Ukraine conflict, the Defense Ministry said.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Thursday said Israel would send a field hospital and staff to Ukraine to provide medical aid in its next humanitarian aid shipment. Jerusalem does not intend to send soldiers, and the field hospital would be staffed by Israeli civilians, he told KAN News.

The IDF Medical Corps is one of the largest health organizations in Israel and faces unique challenges, providing it with opportunities and battlefield knowledge not available elsewhere.

Its field hospitals have been recognized by the World Health Organization as a qualified foreign medical team, making it able to deploy to other countries and aid in medical disaster relief. The IDF can provide operating rooms, surgical teams, ICUs and inpatient referral surgical care.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.