Middle East/North Africa

Netanyahu says he’s prepared for ‘friction’ with US over Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he is willing to deal with tension with the U.S. over his endeavors to shut down Iran’s nuclear program.

“If we have to choose — I hope it doesn’t happen — between friction with our great friend the United States and eliminating the existential threat, eliminating the existential threat” wins, Netanyahu said at a ceremony for the new chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, The Associated Press reports.

The remarks from Netanyahu come as his own political future is in question, with opposition parties announcing this week that they had secured enough votes to form a new government and end his 12 years in office.

They also come weeks after deadly clashes between the Israeli military and the Palestinian group Hamas, which is backed by Iran.

The Iran nuclear program is expected to come up this week when Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz travels to Washington.

Negotiations around reentering the Iranian nuclear deal — officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — are ongoing in Vienna. Former President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord in 2018, imposing sanctions on Iran.

Netanyahu, who opposed the accord when it was first negotiated under former President Obama, has repeatedly said that he believes Iran nuclear capabilities pose an existential threat to Israel.

Tehran has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful, energy-based purposes only, but the Israeli prime minister says the JCPOA does not do enough to prevent the development of nuclear weapons.

Iran is not believed to have enriched uranium at the 90 percent weapons-grade level, though it has reportedly been enriching uranium at its highest levels in recent months.

Top Iranian official Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf said in April that a few grams of uranium had been enriched to 60 percent purity.

“I congratulate the brave nation of Islamic Iran on this success,” Qalibaf tweeted at the time. “The Iranian nation’s willpower is miraculous and can defuse any conspiracy.”

Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Benny Gantz Donald Trump Foreign relations of Iran Iran Iran nuclear deal Iran nuclear program Israel JCPOA Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Nuclear energy in Iran

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