While the world has its eyes glued to the Ukrainian-Russian border, trying to imagine which way history will go, we, in Israel and in the region, are keeping one eye on Ukraine and another on Vienna – where the talks between the world powers and Iran are taking place.
We are looking to Vienna, and we are deeply troubled by what we see.
For Israel and for all the stability-seeking forces in the Middle East, the emerging deal is likely to create a more violent and less stable Middle East.
While there is no doubt that America is our biggest and strongest friend, ultimately it is us who live in the region, and it is us who will bear the consequences.
Our position is not automatic. We are not against any deal per se.
Many people who supported the original JCPOA then, are very worried today.
When we discuss this matter with our American friends, we all agree on the diagnosis:
The Iranians are at a very advanced phase of their uranium enrichment project.
They have crossed one red line after another, including enriching at an unprecedented rate of 60%.
This is the situation we – on both sides of the ocean – inherited.
This is the hand we were dealt.
There’s no point in playing the blame game. We need to address the challenge.
The single biggest problem with this deal is that in two and a half years, which is right around the corner, Iran will be able to develop, install and operate advanced centrifuges.
Imagine football stadiums of advanced centrifuges spinning – allowed by this agreement.
In the meantime, as an advance payment, Iran gets billions of dollars in frozen assets and access to the booming energy market.
Much of this money will be funneled towards attacking Israel.
Let me highlight three points that we will all need to address:
1. The agreement leaves Iran with a fast track to military-grade enrichment. And in the time until it sunsets, they won't even have to destroy all those centrifuges they developed over the past few years.
2. The Iranian regime is insisting on closing the open files of the IAEA – these are 'hot investigations' pertaining to possible military dimensions.
Or in simple English: Iran has hidden and is still hiding nuclear-weapon related materials. It has been caught red-handed, and Iran is demanding that the inspectors that caught them will pretend to forget what they saw.
3. The agreement will pour money, billions of dollars, into the Iranian terror machine – more UAVs, more attacks on ships, more rockets on Israel and our allies through its proxies.
And to cap the chutzpah – Iran is demanding to delist the IRGC.
Do you understand? They are now asking to let the biggest terror organization on earth off the hook.
So this agreement indeed creates a set of new challenges for Israel's security.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that we will prevail.
Yes, this agreement will enrich this brutal and corrupt regime – but this is only temporary.
If I were an investor, Iran is the last place I would invest in.
Nobody in his right mind should invest in a country whose number one export – is terrorism.
Israel, on the other hand, is stronger than ever, growing by 8% in 2021, a year of COVID.
Our economy is booming and will continue to grow, becoming more competitive and less regulated.
Our hi-tech is breaking all records.
We are adding more Jewish men and Arab women to the work force.
We ensured political stability, passed a budget, and our path is as good as ever.
We are building unprecedented military capabilities.
It is our duty to provide security to our people, while being a reliable ally to our friends.
So yes, there are challenges, but we are up to them.
Let me be clear:
Israel won’t accept Iran as a nuclear threshold state.
We have a clear and un-negotiable red line: Israel will always maintain its freedom of action to defend itself.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This government, from day one, made its priority to reach out to the world, to restore and nurture the relations with our neighbors and to work with both sides of the aisle in the US, as we did in the past.
Just this week I’ll be meeting dozens of elected officials from the US – Democrats and Republicans alike.
Despite the differences we have on this agreement, our relations with our friend President Biden and his administration, will remain close and strong.
We will continue to focus on Israel's security
We will say, and more importantly do – everything necessary to ensure it.