Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned Iran’s new president as an “executioner”, describing Ebrahim Raisi’s election victory as a final “wake-up call” to world powers before returning to a nuclear deal with Tehran.
Bennett made the comments on Sunday as he opened his first cabinet meeting since his new coalition government was sworn in last week.
The head of radical justice Raisi was elected next Saturday president of Iran with 62% of the votes in a context historically low voter turnout. He is sanctioned by the United States in part for his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Raisi did not specifically comment on the event.
Bennett said at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that “of all the people that (Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei could have chosen, he chose the executioner of Tehran, the infamous man among Iranians and around the world for leading the death committees that have executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens over the years.
Iran and world powers resumed indirect talks in Vienna on Sunday to resurrect Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal, which granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Iranian and American diplomats negotiated a come back to the agreement in the Austrian capital through European intermediaries since April.
The historic nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, which Israel opposed, collapsed after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the deal in 2018. The move has seen Iran, over time, drop all limitations on enrichment and Tehran is currently enriching uranium to its highest levels ever, although still below military grade levels.
Bennett said Raisi’s election to the Iranian presidency was “the last chance for world powers to wake up before going back to the nuclear deal and figuring out who they are dealing with.”
“These guys are murderers, mass murderers: a brutal executioner regime must never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction that will allow it to kill not thousands, but millions,” he said. .
Israel has long said it opposes the nuclear program of Iran’s nemesis and said it will prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Earlier this month, Israel’s outgoing Mossad intelligence chief reported that Israel was behind a series of recent attacks targeting the country’s nuclear program.
Harry Fawcett of Al Jazeera, in a report from West Jerusalem, said Bennett’s statements were aimed both at an international audience and aimed at solidifying his references at home as being tough on Iran.
Bennett leads a broad coalition of parties ranging from ultra-nationalist Jews to liberal factions and an Arab party that toppled longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sent him into opposition for the first time in 12 years.
“The fact that [Bennett] making his remarks in English was quite interesting considering he was speaking to his cabinet, the kind of [meeting] in which you would see his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in Hebrew, ”Fawcett said.
“So this is obviously a message designed for the whole world – a message designed to get things done in Israel’s favor in terms of the possibility of resuming the Iran nuclear deal. “
Nuclear talks postponed
Later on Sunday, negotiators from Iran and the six world powers adjourned talks on relaunching the nuclear deal and agreed to return to their respective capitals for consultations as remaining differences still need to be overcome, said officials.
“We are now closer than ever to an agreement, but the distance between us and an agreement remains and bridging it is not an easy task,” Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi told state television ever since. Vienna.
“We will return to Tehran this evening.
After more than a week of negotiations in their last round, the parties to the pact concluded with the Russian envoy saying no date for resuming negotiations has yet been set, although he suggested that ‘they could come back in about 10 days.
Enrique Mora, the political director of the European Union who coordinated the talks, told reporters in Vienna that progress was made this week in the sixth round of talks.
“We are closer to an agreement but we are not there yet. We’re closer than a week ago, but we’re not still here, ”Mora said.
Sunday’s talks are the first since Raisi – who will take office in August – won the election.
Raisi, like Khamenei, supported the nuclear talks as a way to roll back US sanctions that crippled the Islamic Republic’s oil economy and dramatically worsened economic hardship, sparking widespread discontent.
The new government is hoping to claim credit for any economic benefits flowing from the relaunch of the deal, something the outgoing administration could land before Raisi takes office.
Several Iranian officials told Reuters news agency that the country’s current negotiating team would remain intact for at least a few months under Raisi’s presidency.