Netanyahu hopes the U.S. “will not go back to the old JCPOA,” but “whatever happens, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction.”
By Aryeh Savir, TPS
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Tuesday for meetings with the country’s leadership and with the declared mission of meeting with the parties in the region to “support their efforts to solidify a ceasefire” following the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls.
The unconditional ceasefire, brokered primarily by Egypt, went into effect on Friday morning after 11 days of warfare. The situation in the area is still tense, with Hamas already presenting demands and issuing threats about the resumption of the hostilities if Israel does not meet its demands.
This is Blinken’s first visit to the Jewish state since taking office as Washington’s top diplomat.
He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, who thanked President Joe Biden and the U.S. for “firmly supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.”
Netanyahu noted that Blinken, in a previous capacity in 2014 after Operation Protective Edge, supported Israel by having its Iron Dome interceptor cache replenished at a cost of a quarter of a billion dollars, which “you personally shepherded through the system very quickly, and we remember it and we’re very grateful to you.”
“You are giving meaning to this now again with replenishments of Iron Dome interceptors that save civilian lives on both sides. We’re grateful for that too,” Netanyahu said.
Israel, too, “will give meaning to our commitment to our self-defense if Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel. Our response will be very powerful,” the Israeli premier warned.
He said they have discussed ways of how to work together to “prevent Hamas’ rearmament with the weapons and means of aggression.”
On Iran, he expressed hope that the U.S. “will not go back to the old JCPOA, because we believe that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy.”
“Whatever happens, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction, committed to getting the weapons of mass destruction for that end,” he stated.
On Monday, Netanyahu said that “there could be a situation in which our paramount goal – ensuring that the ayatollahs do not put a stop to the existence of the Jewish people, which has continued for thousands of years – will require us to make courageous and independent decisions. The State of Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons.”
“In any case, with or without an agreement [between the US and Iran], we will do everything to prevent Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons and this is because it concerns our existence,” he underscored.
Jerusalem is fearful of the new agreement that is taking shape between the Biden administration and Iran, which Israel believes will ultimately enable Iran to build nuclear weapons.
As for peace with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said that Biden is “absolutely correct when he said you’re not going to get peace until Israel is recognized as an independent Jewish state, and that is the key.”
“We have common goals of peace, security and prosperity, and I look forward to working with you on those in this visit and more,” Netanyahu concluded.
Blinken said he was dispatched by Biden to the region for four reasons.
“First, to demonstrate the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security, to start to work toward greater stability and reduced tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” to commence with “urgent humanitarian reconstruction assistance in Gaza,” and to “continue to rebuild our relationship with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority.”
Blinken stressed that “President Biden made crystal clear throughout the violence that the U.S. fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks such as Hamas firing rockets indiscriminately against civilians.”
Blinken is slated to meet with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, and other senior officials from the PA in Ramallah.
He will then travel to Cairo to meet with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
The Secretary will conclude his trip with a stop in Amman to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.