Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook today that more sanctions are needed in order to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions. “I believe it’s time to implement snapback sanctions. I don’t think we can afford to wait. We should not wait for Iran to start its breakout to a nuclear weapon, because then it will be too late for sanctions,” stated Netanyahu at the meeting.
Netanyahu warned the Iranian regime that “Israel will continue to take the actions necessary to prevent you from creating another terror and military front against Israel in Syria. I say to [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, 'You're risking the future of your country and your regime.'"
The prime minister also used the opportunity to indirectly snap at his political partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who said yesterday that the battle against the coronavirus is more urgent than Netanyahu’s July 1 annexation target. “We have very important topics to discuss, even ones that can’t wait until after corona,” Netanyahu said.
In a Facebook post about the meeting, Netanyahu clarified, "We regularly carry out military operations against Iran and its allies in Syria and elsewhere — as soon as it is necessary to do so."
Hook came to Israel after visiting other US allies in the region — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — seeking support for Washington’s demand of extending the United Nations arms embargo on Iran. During the meeting with Netanyahu, Hook said that the United States and Israel “see eye to eye” on extending the arms embargo, adding, “In four short months, Iran will be able to freely import fighter jets, attack helicopters, warships, submarines, large-caliber artillery systems and missiles of certain ranges. Iran will then be in a position to export these weapons and their technologies to their proxies, including Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Shiite militia groups in Iraq, Syrian militant networks in Bahrain and the Houthis in Yemen."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to discuss the embargo extension in the UN Security Council later today.
For Netanyahu, the meeting comes at a perfect time, offering him the possibility to feature yet again his strong partnership with the White House and his security agenda. The mediatized meeting also offered Netanyahu an opportunity to show Israelis that he — and not Gantz — is still the one controlling the Iranian file and contacts with Washington on the issue.
Former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Gantz, who holds both the defense portfolio and the title of alternate prime minister, has made a point in recent weeks of engaging in the Iranian file. Reacting May 22 to threats against Israel by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Gantz warned Iran that "as someone who is very familiar with the Iranian issue, and as someone who prepared the IDF’s operational capabilities, I would not suggest to anyone that they try and test us."
Still, as far as Washington is concerned, neither Netanyahu nor Gantz are the only Israeli interlocutors on Iran. Gabi Ashkenazi, foreign minister and former chief of staff, also met today with Hook, at his office in Jerusalem. With both men emphasizing the very good meeting they had, and judging by Ashkenazi’s determined attitude at the joint press conference, it is obvious that he too intends to take a leading role in the Israeli campaign against Iran.