Iran is ten weeks away from acquiring enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday.
“Iran has violated all of the guidelines set in the JCPOA and is only around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon,” Gantz told ambassadors from countries on the United Nations Security Council during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
“Now is the time for deeds – words are not enough,” he added. “It is time for diplomatic, economic and even military deeds, otherwise the attacks will continue.”
Gantz’s remarks came amid rising tensions around the Gulf of Oman, where a ship was boarded by hijackers Tuesday evening and an Israeli-linked ship was struck by UAVs last week. Iran has been blamed for both attacks.
Emphasizing that Israel does not see the Iranian people as an enemy, Gantz said, “The Iranian regime is threatening us and sparking a regional arms race.”
The remarks were made at a joint briefing by Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Lapid, Gantz and other Israeli officials have addressed the Iranian nuclear issue with their American counterparts recently, delivering an “unusual warning,” according to a report in Kan over the weekend.
“Something has to happen with the negotiations with Iran,” a senior diplomat told Kan. “This ‘limbo’ cannot be a time when Iran is quickly advancing toward becoming a nuclear threshold state.”
US President Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and has engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran alongside formal talks with the agreement’s remaining parties, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Israel has long been against the nuclear deal and opposes Biden’s stated intentions to reenter the treaty, which former US president Donald Trump backed out.
Gantz and Lapid’s briefing came a day before Ebrahim Raisi assumes office as the new president of Iran. Raisi’s ultraconservative camp, which deeply distrusts the United States, has repeatedly criticized outgoing President Hassan Rouhani over the nuclear deal.
Talks in Vienna to revive the deal that gave Iran some relief from international sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program have been suspended by Tehran until Raisi’s term begins.
Experts expect the new government in Tehran to take a tougher approach that could doom the chances of reaching an agreement.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said nuclear talks with Iran “cannot go on indefinitely” but that Washington was “fully prepared” to continue negotiations.
The deal was torpedoed in 2018 by Trump, who unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and imposed punishing sanctions.
“We’re committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely… we look to see what Iran is ready to do or not ready to do and remain fully prepared to return to Vienna to continue negotiations,” Blinken said during a visit to Kuwait. “The ball remains in Iran’s court.”
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last Wednesday that experience has shown “trusting the West does not work,” referring to the US withdrawal from the deal and its fallout.
Raisi has said his government will support talks that “guarantee national interests,” but will not allow negotiations for the sake of negotiations.
“We would like the world to understand that the Iranian regime is violent and fanatical,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said last month. “It selected the ‘Hangman of Tehran’ as its president — a man who is willing to starve his own people for years in order to have a military nuclear program. That is a regime that one should not do business with.”
Bennett added that Israel “will continue to consult with our friends, persuade, discuss, and share information and insights out of mutual respect. But at the end of the day, we will be responsible for our own fate, nobody else.”
Agencies contributed to this report.