Bennett: Iran’s days of setting Middle East on fire are over
Israel will no longer allow Iran to continue its aggression with impunity, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned on a visit to the IDF Northern Command on Tuesday.
“Iran already knows the price that we exact when someone threatens our security,” he said. “The Iranians need to understand that it is impossible to sit peacefully in Tehran and from there ignite the entire Middle East. That is over.”
Bennett’s remarks came several days after Iran launched a suicide drone attack on the Mercer Street, an Israeli-managed ship, killing a Romanian and a British national. The US, UK and Romania said they are certain Iran was behind the attack and that they would work on a response.
The prime minister spoke of Israeli efforts to bring the international community to its side against Iran, including sharing the intelligence information showing Iran was the perpetrator, but said that “we also know how to act alone.”
The increase in the defense budget, as part of the recent state budget that the cabinet passed on Sunday, is a reflection of Israel’s seriousness about investing in countering the Iranian threat, the prime minister said.
Bennett also criticized the European Union for sending Enrique Mora, the EU coordinator for the Iran nuclear talks and deputy secretary-general of the EU’s foreign ministry, to attend the inauguration this week of Iran’s incoming-President Ebrahim Raisi.
“Raisi is the most extreme Iranian president of them all, and the competition is tough,” Bennett said. “I call on the EU: One cannot talk about human rights and simultaneously honor a murderer, a hangman, who has eliminated hundreds of opponents of the regime.”
The new Iranian president has been nicknamed “the Butcher of Tehran” because of the former judge’s role in the execution of thousands of Iranian dissidents, which earned him US sanctions for human rights violations and war crimes charges in Sweden.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hiat said “the decision of the European Union to send a senior representative to the swearing in ceremony of the ‘Butcher of Tehran’ is puzzling and shows poor judgment.”
Calling the attack on the Mercer Street an act of state-sponsored terror, Hiat said EU attendance at Raisi’s swearing in “gives legitimacy to the Iranian attack and the policy of aggression of the ayatollahs’ government.”
Former EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini attended the inauguration of Iran’s departing president Hassan Rouhani.
However, the current ceremony is taking place after a nearly two-month break from indirect negotiations between Iran and the US to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Mora’s visit to Iran is meant in part to break the impasse and revive the talks, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The EU also condemned the attack on the Mercer Street on Monday night, but did not mention Iran in its statement, saying only that it “takes note” of the US, UK and Israeli assessment and that the attack is “unacceptable.”
Also on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the attack on the vessel would not deter the US from trying to return to the deal.