Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz made the remark during an address on current security challenges at a policy forum hosted by the Washington Institute.
By Erin Viner
“As we know, Iran is continuing its uranium enrichment and expanding its capabilities and they are close to 90% enrichment” – and only a “few weeks away” from the breakout time to produce nuclear weapons, said Jerusalem’s top defense official, underscoring that, “I understand the need for an agreement, but if an agreement will not be reached, we must activate Plan B immediately.”
Ongoing discussions between Iran and world powers in Vienna have so far failed to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Expressing Israel’s frustration with the prospects of the US restarting a nuclear deal, Gantz said “I believe Iran is a global and regional challenge and also a threat to the state of Israel. I hate to see this as a sole Israeli problem because, then go ahead and fix it, and no I don’t think that’s the case. I think Iran is involved in the global arena, Iran is involved in the regional arena, and we must look at it as such.”
He went on to say that, “Post-agreement time will be totally different on the situation as far as Iran in the area. It will give them lots of funds and now I think that we may see a negative impact on the regional activities given the fact that it will have so many funds… “I must say that I don’t like to see a poor agreement trying to solve a big problem and if there is an agreement it has to be solid and it must fill all the loopholes such as Sunset, warheads, etc.”
Jerusalem’s top defense official further asserted the necessity to confront the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which remains the biggest exporter of terror globally.
“We must expand intelligence cooperation” with the United States, said Gantz, according to a statement from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD), as well as “even a regional coalition in this field, which will make up for the lack of inspection in a possible agreement, since inspection should be ‘anytime, anywhere.’ I can also see the possibility for future cooperation in air defense.”
Minister Gantz stressed to the audience of academics, policy experts and journalists attending the Washington Institute Policy Forum that, “Intelligence cooperation and a regional alliance will make up for any lack of inspections on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”
Turning to the recent terror wave in Israel, Gantz said that dozens of attacks have been prevented by security forces who are “employing a triangle of intelligence activities” being conducted with “great precision and sensitivity.”
Asked whether Jerusalem is managing to contain the current round of terror from escalating into renewed hostilities with the Islamist organizations in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, he pointed out the enormous economic relief provided to the enclave by Israel’s authorization of 12,000 Palestinians to enter the country each day.
“This is a challenging and sensitive period,” he said, urging ongoing Muslim observance of Ramadan to be “a time of worship, spent with family,” a belief he said is shared by the majority of Palestinians and Muslim citizens of Israel.
Vis-à-vis Palestinians in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Minister Gantz emphasized there will be a balance “between a conservative security policy and investing in civilian and economic ‘confidence-building measures’ such as work permits, building permits and more,
Minister Gantz continued by stressing the necessity to expand relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), with which the security establishment maintains close coordination for the purpose of ensuring continued stability.
“I think we should continue strengthening our ties with the Palestinian Authority at all levels, from the State to the operational level. This is very important. We must continue our security coordination with the Palestinian Authority; We should continue with confidence building measures with the Palestinian Authority – in increase work permits, building approvals, industrial zones toward development, everything in our capacity to make sure that we have good relations with them,” he said.
It is important to note that while Israel seeks to deepen its relations with the PA, it has also called on Palestinian leadership to act with greater determination against rogue elements within its ranks. “I demand concrete action,” insisted Defense Minister Gantz, saying that while it was a positive development that the PA had condemned some of the recent attacks that other senior Palestinian officials, such as the Governor of Jenin, “are inciting terror,” which “hurts both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Palestinian sources informed TV7 that more is being done against “elements” that have been working to undermine the PA, including by incitement and attacks against Israelis. This was later corroborated when Palestinian Security forces arrested one of its members who later admitted, under interrogation, that he had planned to carry out an attack against the Israeli community of Vered Yericho.
Other topics discussed during the Gantz briefing included Israel’s unique bond and strategic relations with the US, the positive trend of normalization with the country’s Arab allies (Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco), the war in Ukraine and the security situation in Syria.