Bennetanyahu

June 21, 2021 - 21:38

TEHRAN – In an echo of the former Israeli prime minister’s tactics employed against Iran, the new Israeli government resorted to similar tactics to magnify the alleged threat posed by Iran.

While Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi did not outline in detail his foreign policy priorities as of Sunday, new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet Benjamin Netanyahu condemned on Sunday the election of Raisi as Iranian president, describing him with profane language and calling on world powers to refrain from negotiating a new nuclear deal with him.

“Raisi's election is, I would say, the last chance for world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement, and understand who they are doing business with,” the new Israeli prime minister said in a statement.

Bennet once again accused Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon, noting that Iran should not be allowed to possess such a weapon. “Israel's position will not change on this,” he vowed.

Bennett, an ultranationalist atop of a cross-partisan coalition, has not distanced himself from the opposition of his conservative predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Prior to a vote to approve his government, Bennet in his address to the Knesset, indicated that he plans to continue Netanyahu’s failed policies vis-à-vis Iran.

“Returning to the Iran Deal is a mistake that will once again give legitimacy to one of the most violent, darkest regimes in the world,” Bennett said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. Israel is not a party to the deal, and will maintain total freedom of action.”

Bennet alleged that the JCPOA gave Iran billions of dollars and said that these dollars were spent on funding what he called “terrorist outposts” in the region.

The position taken by Bennet once again showed that there are no moderate politicians in Israel. Bennet assumed office thanks to the alliance he built with various, and in some cases contradictory, political factions. Israeli media outlets touted the Bennet government as the most diverse and moderate government. It is made up of very contradictory parties. It was formed from two factions that shared power equally: the Right bloc that includes 12 deputies, and a bloc seeking change which includes 49 deputies. In addition to the contradiction between the two blocs, there is a contradiction no less severe within the Lapid faction. It includes Avigdor Lieberman's far-right party and Meretz's far-left party, and between them are Benny Gantz's party, Labor and the party of Lapid himself as well as the Islamic movement.

The Bennet government was supposed to advocate moderate policies toward the Palestinian people and Iran given the diverse composition of the cabinet. However, Bennet showed that he is not different from Netanyahu in terms of advocating hardline policies. This was evident from the approval by the Bennet government of a rightist parade in Jerusalem (al-Quds).

The parade, also known as the flag march, is widely regarded as the symbol of the continuation of state-level extremism in Israel. It was delayed several times over fears that such a controversial move would prompt another conflict between the Palestinians and the Israeli regime.

The flag-waving procession was planned to proceed but the Israeli authorities, taking into account Palestinian warnings, delayed the event, which was organized by Israeli right-wing groups. The organizers of the procession planned to march through the walled Old City's Damascus Gate and into its Muslim quarter, a provocative move that prompted the Palestinians, including the resistance groups in the Gaza Strip, to warn Israel of the consequences of the procession should it proceed.

However, the Israeli government did not heed this warning, giving the far-right groups the green light to hold their controversial parade. The so-called flag march has always been a controversial move. It is held to commemorate the so-called Jerusalem Day, one which reminds the Palestinians of the day when they lost control over Jerusalem’s Old City during the 1967 war. The Israeli government wasted no time in standing by the side of right-wingers.

On Iran, the new Israeli government took the same line. This can be explained by a desire on the part of Bennet to allure his social base, which is mainly comprised of ultraconservatives. He was forced to coalesce with Muslim and leftist factions because he failed to put together a coalition of ultraconservative lawmakers. He also failed to put aside his disagreements with his former ally Netanyahu.

But Bennet will likely fail to dissuade the U.S. from rejoining the JCPOA as Netanyahu did. The former prime minister even jeopardized Israel’s relations with the U.S. by publicly opposing the U.S. stated goal of returning to the Iran deal even though the Biden administration had asked him to avoid publicizing the U.S.-Israel differences over the JCPOA.

Adopting a relatively low-key approach, the Bennet cabinet is intensifying consultations with the U.S. in an effort to calmly achieve what Netanyahu failed to achieve through a vociferous campaign. To this end, Chief of Staff of Israeli Armed Forces Aviv Kochavi has begun a visit to Washington to discuss a number of issues including the Iran nuclear deal.

During the visit, Kochavi explained to White House officials Israel's position on the nuclear talks with Iran and the return of the United States to the agreement. According to Israeli media reports, Kochavi will meet with senior U.S. security and military officials, including the National Security Adviser, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Haaretz reported that a group of top Israeli officers, including the head of the Israeli army's strategic department and the head of the Army Intelligence Research Center, will accompany Kochavi on the trip.

Kochavi is the first Israeli official to visit the United States since the formation of a new government in Israel. The visit comes as a number of Israeli security leaders have warned that Israel's chances of influencing the course of nuclear talks with Iran are dwindling.

Israeli President Rivlin is also set to meet his American counterpart on June 28 according to a White House statement. “President Biden looks forward to welcoming Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to the White House on June 28, 2021. President Rivlin’s visit will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel and the deep ties between our governments and our people. It will be an opportunity to consult about the many challenges facing the region,” the statement said.

Ahead of his trip to Washington, Rivlin will consult with Bennet and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The meeting is to coordinate a message about Iran that the new Tel Aviv cabinet intends to convey to the United States through Rivlin. Israel is likely to reaffirm its opposition to reviving the Iran nuclear deal, but it is also expected to make proposals to the United States to amend the agreement, according to Israeli press reports.

The Israeli officials’ visits to Washington come at a time when Israeli media outlets are calling on the Israeli government to clarify the mysterious death of an Israeli intelligence officer who died in a military prison during the recent war between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The man, whose identity is under two gag orders, had been behind bars since September, according to the Jerusalem Post. He was found in serious condition in his cell at the newly-opened Neve Tzedek military prison on the night of May 16 and later pronounced dead.

“Officer X” served in a top army intelligence division. While the military won’t say which one, it has been announced he was not charged with espionage or contact with the enemy, the Israeli newspaper continued. The mysterious death of the Israeli officer left many questions unanswered.

“If it’s not espionage, why won’t the court or IDF release his name and say what he did? If he committed a crime, the military must say what it was,” the Jerusalem Post asked, adding, “Why is it taking so long to release the cause of his death? He did not commit suicide, the IDF said, adding that he was not killed. So what was it? Did he die of natural causes? The IDF must allow an independent investigation into his death, as his family has requested, and not by its internal investigations unit. If he had been discharged by the IDF during his time in prison, why wasn’t he moved to a civilian prison?”
 

SM/PA

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