Ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s maiden visit to Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday hinted Israel could take military action against Iran’s nuclear sites without U.S. approval.
Addressing top brass from the Mossad at a ceremony welcoming the new chief of the spy agency, David Barnea, Netanyahu said: “The first task of each one of you is to prevent Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons,”
“I very much appreciate our friend the United States, which has been standing by our side for many years. That’s an integral part of our national security,” Netanyahu said according to a translation of his remarks by The Times of Israel.
“But there could be a situation in which our highest goal — to guarantee that the ayatollahs don’t end the thousands of years of existence of the Jewish people — will require us to take brave and independent decisions,” he went on.
“In any event — with or without a deal — we will do everything to deny Iran nuclear weapons, because this concerns our very existence.”
His remarks come as the U.S. and Iran hold indirect talks in Vienna to discuss a return to the shattered 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with world powers from which former president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.
Iran‘s proclamations that it seeks nuclearization for peaceful purposes fly in the face of its perpetual threats to annihilate Israel.
Earlier this month, a leaked report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog revealed that Iran has enriched uranium to 63 percent — dangerously close to weapons-grade and far beyond the 3.67 percent allowed under the nuclear deal.
An April 11 blast at the Natanz facility saw the power supply cut and thousands of centrifuges destroyed, reportedly setting back the country’s nuclear program by nine months.
Iran blamed Israel for the attack. Rouhani addressed Israel in televised remarks at the time, saying that the uranium enrichment “is the response to your malice. What you did was nuclear terrorism. What we do is legal.”
Iran further escalated tensions on Sunday when it said international inspectors may no longer access surveillance images of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites.
Blinken headed to Jerusalem Monday for his first trip to the region, which will include stops in Ramallah, Cairo and Amman. According to a senior State Department official, the purpose of the visit will be to ensure that Friday’s U.S.-brokered ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terror group will hold as well as to take steps towards rehabilitating Gaza but at the same time stopping international aid from reaching Hamas.