German leader Angela Merkel on Sunday became the first German Chancellor to participate in an Israeli cabinet meeting, and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took advantage of the historic moment to warn Germany and the world about the Iranian nuclear threat. While the world is waiting for Iran to return to the negotiating table on a renewed nuclear deal, Bennett said Iran is not waiting on their nuclear ambitions.
“Unfortunately, in the last three years the Iranians have taken a giant leap forward in their ability to enrich uranium. The Iranian nuclear program is at its most advanced point ever. The world is waiting, the Iranians are playing for time, and the centrifuges are spinning,” said Bennett in comments published by his office.
The Israeli leader made it clear what Israel’s response will be. “The responsibility on Israel is to make certain—in actions, not speeches—that Iran will not have nuclear weapons, ever,” said Bennett at the start of the cabinet meeting hosting Merkel. “Nuclear weapons in the hands of such an extremist and violent regime will change the face of the region and the world. For us this is not a strategic problem, but an existential issue.”
During a separate press conference with Merkel, Bennett said his concern is not just Iran obtaining nuclear weapons—even getting to the threshold so they can build the bomb at any time is a serious threat: “The Iranian nuclear program has reached a stage that requires leadership. Acceptance of Iran becoming a nuclear threshold state will be a moral stain on the free world and—even moreso—will threaten world peace.”
Merkel, in Israel in the waning days of her tenure as Germany’s leader while a new government is being formed in Berlin, strongly supports Israel’s security and reiterated that on Sunday. In comments with Bennett published by Israel, Merkel noted the tragic history of the two people groups and her country’s commitment going forward.
“It is fair to say that I continue to consider it a stroke of good fortune given to us by history that after the crimes against humanity of the Shoah [Holocaust], it has been possible to reset and to reestablish relations between Germany and Israel to the extent that we have done,” said Merkel. “I want to use this opportunity to emphasize that the topic of Israel’s security will always be of central importance and a central topic of every German government.”
In separate comments recapped by German Spokesperson Steffen Siebert on Twitter and translated from German by Google, Merkel said that “Germany is not neutral when it comes to the security of Israel.”
Bennett quoted those very words back to Merkel in the cabinet meeting calling it a “moral stand that is so important to hear.”
“Not because of the moral debt and the special relationship between the two countries [Israel and Germany], but because the State of Israel is truly, as I said at the [United Nations], a lighthouse in a stormy sea,” said Bennett.
“Whoever maintains neutrality in the conflict between Israel and countries like Iran and organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah has lost their moral compass. For years, you, Chancellor, have served as the moral compass of all of Europe and have taken an uncompromising line in supporting Israel.”
Bennett not only argued the comparison between Israel and terror groups like Hezbollah is unconscionable, but also that the terror threat of groups like Hezbollah could be even greater if Iran obtains nuclear weapons. “We see how the Iranians are acting at the moment, without a nuclear umbrella, in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza and the Gulf. One can only imagine the extent of the damage they would cause if the world knew that behind this bullying there was also a nuclear weapon.”
Israel has long opposed the nuclear deal signed between Iran and the major world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and now being renegotiated. On Sunday, Bennett restated why.
“There is no point in trying to appease the Iranians; they interpret conciliation as a weakness. They continue to thrive in the international community, playing for time while constantly advancing uranium enrichment and destabilizing the region. This is a critical point, and Germany’s position is particularly important,” said Bennett.
“We in Israel are engaged in actions and are countering Iran at all levels, including daily containment of their attempts to flood our region with weapons.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, October 10, 2021)