In a strong message to world leaders at the Munich Security Conference (MSC), Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that “All steps must be taken to ensure that Iran never becomes a nuclear-threshold state.”
By Erin Viner
According to a statement TV7 obtained from the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Gantz emphasized that “we are currently in a critical period for global security, as well as for stability and peace in the Middle East,” and that he knows full well as a former Chief Staff of the IDF “that in war the winner suffers losses as well but in peace we are all winners.”
Even if current talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reach an agreement, the Israeli Minister stressed it will “not mark the end of the road” for efforts to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Former United States Republican President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, citing evidence of covert Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile development, in addition to malign regional behavior and support of proxy warfare. The Ayatollah regime responded by openly violating critical nuclear limits, including to uranium enrichment to 60%.
The current administration of Democratic President Joe Biden has been undertaking efforts to bring both sides back into compliance with the deal. Indirect talks to revive the 2015 accord, under which Tehran had agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions, began in April 2020.
The negotiations were suspended for 5 months following the June election of new hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. An 8th round of talks began last November before reaching an impasse, and resumed earlier this month.
Israel’s top defense official told those gathered at the MSC that “action must be taken to ensure that Iran does not continue to enrich in additional facilities.”
These steps, he said include increased oversight. “It is essential” that monitoring and investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to “ensure that the advanced centrifuges are not found in other facilities” in Iran, stressed Minister Gantz, who went on to demand that Tehran “must be stopped” from developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Defense Minister Gantz was also adamant that “it is critical that the sunset clause (of the 2015 JCPOA) is not understood as an expiration date that enables Iran to revisit its nuclear ambitions.”
So-called “sunset clauses” refer to the expiration – as early as 2024 – of the “snapback” mechanism to restore international sanctions if Iran violates restrictions on advanced centrifuges imposed by previous United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
The annual MSC on international security policy is attended by leaders from more than 70 countries around the world to engage in an intensive debate on current and future challenges, including heads of state, ministers, members of parliament, senior officials of governments, armed forces and international organizations.
The Full Text of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to the Munich Security Conference:
These are significant times for global peace and for stability in the Middle East.
Challenges emerge alongside historic events that are reshaping the region.
Partnerships are being built between leaders, peace is forged between countries, and friendships are made between people.
Peace is achieved by courageous leaders such as His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, and His Majesty King Ahamad Al Khalifa – whom I had the great honor of visiting just a couple of weeks ago.
It is also led by leaders such as King Mohammed the sixth of Morocco.
I will never forget the collective prayer we held in the Synagogue in Rabat – praying for the well-being of the King and at the same time praying for Israel’s peace and security.
I carry this prayer with me, here today.
This is the time to thank the previous U.S. leadership and former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for achieving the Abraham Accords, and to thank the current U.S. administration and European partners who are assisting Israel in expanding and deepening ties with partners in the region, and for investing in the security of the Middle East.
We are opening the gates of the Middle East to cooperation that will strengthen our economies, spread innovation and contribute to regional stability and security.
Our hands are extended in peace to new brave leaders in the region who are prepared to develop relations with Israel.
I am certain it will not be long before these partnerships are built and exposed.
As a former Chief of Defense Forces and as the leader of Israel’s defense establishment, I must say my delight and honor were exceptional when I landed in Morocco, Bahrain and other countries, and was received with so much warmth. In war, the winner gets to lose as well.
In peace we are all winners.
Now, as clouds of war gather above us, it is the responsibility of the world leaders to spread calm, to promote discourse and to uphold the principles that will preserve world peace and security.
This should be the approach towards the conflict in Ukraine – and I call on all parties, even if we are in the last minutes – everything must be done to prevent bloodshed.
We are currently in a critical period for global security, as well as for stability and peace in the Middle East.
Iranian aggression is rising – not just in the nuclear program but also in its regional attacks.
Iran takes over failed states, forcing them to defend Iranian interests, while committing severe human rights violations.
We view with great concern the attacks conducted against our partners in the region – attacks that according to our assessments are being carried out under the guidance and approval of Iranian leadership, employing weapons – some of which are produced in Iran, and implementing operational know-how gained in Iran.
We also see what is happening in Iraq, where Iran is currently trying to intervene with its Quds force in centers of influence, despite the loss of their supporters in the elections.
Iran exploits civilian flights from Tehran to Damascus International Airport to transport weapons under the illusion of civilian equipment. Iran also endangers the lives of innocent civilians by transferring weapons in containers that arrive to the port of Ladakia.
Iran violates the freedom of navigation. Even worse – Iranian UAV attacks have claimed innocent lives, such as the British and Romanian civilians killed in the Mercer Street Attack off the Gulf Coast.
Iran also endangers civilian flights, which could be hit by UAVs that cannot change course.
Iran is responsible for arming proxies in Lebanon and undermining the country’s governance.
Just last week, in Israel we saw a number of Hezbollah attempts to violate Israel’s sovereignty.
In this context – I have a clear message for Hezbollah.
Their operatives are familiar with the noise made by our airplanes, and with their capabilities.
If we are required to respond and to attack in order to defend ourselves, we will do so and we will cause great damage to the terror organization and its surroundings.
The state of Lebanon will unfortunately have to be held responsible.
We will not hesitate to act anytime and anywhere to ensure Israel’s security.
In facing such challenges, we must stand strong, united, determined.
A nuclear deal, if signed with Iran – does not mark the end of the road.
Action must be taken to ensure that Iran does not continue to enrich in additional facilities, and oversight must be increased.
It is essential that the IAEA continues to investigate and monitor the open files.
We must ensure that the advanced centrifuges are not found in other facilities.
Development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads must be stopped.
It is critical that the sunset clause is not understood as an expiration date that enables Iran to revisit its nuclear ambitions.
All steps must be taken to ensure that Iran never becomes a nuclear-threshold state.
The world must never come to terms with it and Israel will never come to terms with it.
In 1987, US President Reagan arrived in Berlin.
From the Reichstag building he saw graffiti spray-painted on the Berlin Wall that said, “This wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith.”
We as leaders, have a duty to believe in peace and partnership between our nations.
It is imperative to bring down the walls between us.
The stronger and more united we stand as partners, the more we cooperate in facing challenges, the greater peace, stability and prosperity we will enjoy.
We must strive for peace for our people, and security for our countries.