By Ben Sales
TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, calling it “correct, intelligent and courageous.”
Trump’s announcement Tuesday that the United States would effectively withdraw from the deal, which curbed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions, fulfills a deep and longstanding desire of Netanyahu’s. The prime minister adamantly opposed the deal before it was signed in 2015, and has continued to warn of its dangers in the years since.
“Israel has opposed the nuclear deal from the start because we said that rather than blocking Iran’s path to a bomb, the deal actually paved Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs, and this within a few years’ time,” Netanyahu said in a statement Tuesday following Trump’s speech. “The removal of sanctions under the deal has already produced disastrous results. The deal didn’t push war further away, it actually brought it closer. The deal didn’t reduce Iran’s aggression, it dramatically increased it, and we see this across the entire Middle East.”
Trump criticized Iran’s regional actions in his announcement of the withdrawal, also warning of “sunset clauses” in the deal that would have lifted limits on Iran’s nuclear activity after a number of years. Along with the United States and Iran, the deal was signed by Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
“This was a one-sided deal that should have never ever been made,” Trump said. “It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement.”
Netanyahu criticized the deal relentlessly in the years leading up to 2015, delivering a controversial speech to Congress opposing it in March of that year. Lately, in light of Trump’s repeated criticism of the deal, Netanyahu urged him to “fix it or nix it.” Last week, he presented documents showing that Iran had lied in the past about the scope of its nuclear program. Trump cited those documents in his announcement.
Tensions have also risen between Israel and Iran in Syria, where Iran is a principal supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Israel shot down an Iranian drone over Israeli territory earlier this year and has allegedly carried out countless airstrikes in Syria in recent years, allegedly to prevent Syrian weapons from reaching Iranian proxies like the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
On Tuesday, Israel’s military increased its readiness on the northern border in the Golan Heights in response to what it is calling “unusual movements of Iranian forces in Syria.”
“We are determined to prevent the Iranian army from creating a base against us in Syria, and we will react powerfully to any strike on our territory,” Netanyahu said Tuesday. “The army is ready, the army is strong and whoever tries us will feel our force.”
CAP: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)