Jerusalem – A top deputy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said the Israeli leader must push President Donald Trump to freeze, change or cancel the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran during an upcoming trip to the United States.
Yisrael Katz, Israel’s minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, told a security conference in the central Israeli city of Herzliya on Monday that changing the deal should be Netanyahu’s “primary mission.” Netanyahu is expected to meet with Trump next week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Katz said the world’s failed attempts to negotiate a halt to North Korea’s nuclear program provide a lesson. “Iran is the new North Korea,” he said. “We need to act now so we won’t be sorry tomorrow about what we didn’t do yesterday.”
The deal offered Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Israel has repeatedly claimed the deal will not prevent Iran, its archenemy, from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly criticized the nuclear agreement as a bad deal. His administration has faced two 90-day certification deadlines to state whether Iran was meeting the conditions needed to continue enjoying sanctions relief under the deal and has both times backed away from a showdown. But Trump more recently has said he does not expect to certify Iran’s compliance again. The next deadline is in mid-October.
On Monday, Yukiya Amano, the head of the U.N. agency monitoring Iran’s compliance with the deal, said Iran is honoring the agreement. Amano spoke in Vienna at the start of a 35-nation board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country’s nuclear ambitions, its developing of long-term missiles, hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and support for anti-Israel militant groups. Israel has grown increasingly concerned about Iran’s involvement in the civil war in neighboring Syria, where its troops are supporting President Bashar Assad.
Israel is worried that Iran, and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, will establish a long-term presence in Syria near the Israeli border.
Katz claimed that Assad is in the process of signing a long-term deal with Iran that could allow the Iranians to deliver sophisticated weapons and operate Shiite militias with tens of thousands of fighters with the goal of threatening and battling Israel.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in Syria. But it has carried out dozens of airstrikes against suspected weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah. Last week, Syria accused Israel of attacking a government facility, described by some as a missile-producing factory and others as connected to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
Israel has not commented on the accusations.