Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said he would change Israel’s strategy to counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, promising to bring the fight back to the court of public opinion.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a ministerial meeting that it was still possible that the West would revive efforts to sign a nuclear deal with Iran, and that he would apply public pressure to block it.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first to involve official business since the government was sworn in on Thursday.
Netanyahu said he would “openly fight from a strong position in the international arena against a return to the nuclear deal.” “Not only behind closed doors talks with leaders, but also within the realm of international public opinion, which recognizes the real danger posed by an Iranian regime that is killing innocent civilians inside and outside Iran, is having strong and open discussions. increase.”
The recently-discussed nuclear deal with Iran was denounced as a “bad deal” by the previous Israeli administration and security agencies. It releases billions of dollars into Tehran without any guarantee that it will actually curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Israel has long pledged to act to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Negotiations now seem all but abandoned following new tough demands by Tehran and the regime’s deadly crackdown on months of protests demanding greater freedom.
Last month, a video was released in which US President Joe Biden said the multilateral pact limiting Iran’s nuclear program was “dead,” but he said he would not announce it publicly.
Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the time that Mr Biden’s remarks represented a “tremendous achievement” for the outgoing Israeli government.
In addition to obstructing a return to the nuclear deal, Netanyahu said he would continue Israeli operations against Iran in Syria.
“We will work more vigorously to prevent Iranian forces from entrenching in Syria and elsewhere,” he said. Israel is said to have recently hit a target at Damascus’ airport on Sunday.
Netanyahu and his 31-member cabinet also formally approved the formation of an 11-member security cabinet. This is a high-level subset of government ministers who oversee and authorize classified security and military matters.
In addition to Netanyahu, who chairs the forum, the Likud panel includes Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Home and Health Minister Arie Deli (Shas), National Security It consists of Security Minister Itamar Ben Guvir (Otma Yehudit). ), Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (religious Zionism), Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dahmer, Transport Minister Miri Rezhev, Israel Energy Minister Katz, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Avi Dichtel, former Shinbet Councilor.
With the exception of Smotrich, Ben Gvir and Deri, all other ministers on the panel are either members of Netanyahu’s Likud party or, in the case of non-political nominee Dermer, work closely with the prime minister. This would mean that Smotrich and Ben Gvir would have a say in high-level decision-making, but Netanyahu would have his role as final arbiter through installments of lawmakers likely to follow his lead. It means to keep the role.
Even if Smotrich and Ben Gvir’s influence fades, the security cabinet is expected to be one of the most hawkish the country has ever seen, reflecting the radical right-wing composition of the new government. increase.
At the meeting, Netanyahu blamed the fragmentation of the previous big tent government for dysfunctional governance and handling of economic issues, leading to a failure to promote peace.
The Naftali Bennett Rapid government did not further expand the Abraham Accords, but continued to invest in those ties, signing a maritime border agreement with Lebanon, a country with which Israel is still at war.
On governance and personal security, Netanyahu said his government had received “clear orders from the people” to improve both.
“To restore personal security to all Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, we will take strong action against lawbreakers wherever they are,” Netanyahu told the assembled ministers. Told.
On Tuesday morning, Ben Gvir visited Jerusalem’s flashpoint, the Temple Mount, leading to an international outcry.
Prime Minister Netanyahu did not mention the visit in his official statement at the beginning of the ministerial meeting. Hebrew-language media reports on Monday night indicated that the prime minister and national security minister had agreed to postpone visits to the site for the time being. .
Ben Guvir, who serves as Minister of National Security at the reorganized and expanded police ministry, has among other stunts during his tenure in the Knesset pulled out a pistol and set up a makeshift office in Jerusalem’s tense Sheikh Jara district. and enhanced his reputation as a provocateur. He has been convicted in the past of inciting racism and supporting a Jewish terrorist group.
Under the governance heading, Netanyahu also promised his government would work to “ensure an appropriate balance between authorities.”
Netanyahu also said he held his first economic meeting with Finance Minister Smotrich and Netanyahu’s economic adviser Avi Shimon on Monday night, discussing the rising cost of living.
Netanyahu said they had discussed “immediate emergency measures to be taken in the coming days in this regard”.
“We are united in the fight against the cost of living [crisis],” He said.
On Monday, the Bank of Israel further raised interest rates to 3.75%. This is his highest since 2008. Consumers were also hit with a series of price increases, including his 8.3% rise in electricity prices on Jan. 1.
Attorney General Gary Baharaf-Miala did not attend Tuesday’s cabinet meeting. She was also not invited to the cabinet’s first congratulatory meeting on Thursday after being approved by the Knesset.
A Justice Ministry official told the Times of Israel that Bakhalaf Miara generally did not attend meetings unless there was a special need, and that her absence was “not uncommon.”
Netanyahu met with Bharaf Miara on Sunday amid strained relations, and the prime minister’s incoming government vowed to enact sweeping judicial reforms — including changes to significantly weaken her position. was planned.
During the election campaign, several Likud MKs urged Netanyahu to sack Bakharaf Miala if he became prime minister again, but the Attorney General made public the new government’s legislative plans, particularly those of the High Court. criticized.
Bharaf Miala is also expected to oppose Dehri’s appointment as minister in the new government following a recent conviction, reportedly the appointment of a three-time convicted person of corruption. I plan to file a legal opinion that it is unreasonable for The past, including only the last year.
Times of Israel staff and Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.