Iran had crossed “all red lines” in its nuclear program, said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday, and vowed that Israel would not allow Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
In his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Bennett said Iran sought to dominate the Middle East under a “nuclear umbrella” and urged a more concerted international effort to halt Iran’s nuclear activities.
But he also noted at Israel’s potential to act on its own against Iran, something it has repeatedly threatened in the past.
“Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning,” Bennett said. “Israel will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Bennett, a far-right politician who ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister in June, wants U.S. President Joe Biden to harden his stance against Iran, Israel’s regional arch-foe. He opposes the new U.S. administration’s efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Biden’s White House predecessor, Donald Trump, abandoned in 2018.
Indirect U.S.-Iran talks in Vienna have stalled as Washington awaits the next move by Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi.
Bennett struck a less combative tone before the United Nations than Netanyahu, who often relied on props and visual aids to dramatize his accusations against Iran, an approach that critics derided as political stunts.
But Bennett has been just as adamant as Netanyahu was in pledging to do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran, which Israel views as an existential threat, from building a nuclear weapon. Iran consistently denies it is seeking a bomb.
“Iran’s nuclear weapons program is at a critical point. All red lines have been crossed, inspections ignored,” Bennett said. “They’re getting away with it.”
He called for international action. “If we put our heads to it, if we’re serious about stopping it, if we use our resourcefulness, we can prevail, Bennett said.
Bennett also took aim at Raisi, accusing him of serious human rights abuses against his own people over the years. Raisi is under targeted U.S. sanctions.