A senior Israeli government minister on Monday warned that taking military action against Iran’s nuclear program is still an option — despite last week’s framework deal between world powers and the Islamic Republic.
The comments by Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, reflected the alarm in Israel over last week’s deal, which offers Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for scaling back its suspect nuclear program. Israeli leaders believe the framework leaves too much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact and could still allow it to develop the means to produce a nuclear weapon.
Steinitz, a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, said the government would spend the coming months lobbying the world powers negotiating with Iran to strengthen the language in the deal as they hammer out a final agreement. While stressing that Israel prefers a diplomatic solution, he said the “militaryoption” still exists.
“It was on the table. It’s still on the table. It’s going to remain on the table,” Steinitz told reporters. “Israel should be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. And it’s our right and duty to decide how to defend ourselves, especially if our national security and even very existence is under threat.”
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be a threat to its survival, pointing to years of Iranian calls for Israel’s destruction, its support for anti-Israeli militant groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads. Israel — which is widely believed to be a nuclear power — says a nuclear-armed Iran would set off an arms race in the world’s most volatile region.