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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Bennett: Iran’s days of setting Middle East on fire are over

Iran can no longer continue to act with impunity, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned during a visit to the IDF Northern Command on Monday.

“Iran knows the price we exact from anyone threatening our security,” Bennett said. “The Iranians need to understand that they cannot sit peacefully in Tehran and ignite the whole Middle East from there. That is over.”

The increase in defense spending as outlined in the new state budget that was passed by the cabinet on Sunday is a reflection of Israel’s commitment to investing in countering the Iranian threat, the prime minister insisted.

PM NAFTALI BENNET at situation assessment meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi and senior IDF officials on Israel’s northern border, August 3, 2021
Bennett’s remarks came several days after Iran launched a suicide drone attack on the Mercer Street oil tanker, an Israeli-managed ship, killing a Romanian and a British national. The US, the UK and Romania said they are certain that Iran was behind the attack and that they were working on a response.

The prime minister spoke of Israel’s efforts to bring the international community to its side against Iran, including by sharing the intelligence showing that Iran was the perpetrator, but added that “at the same time, we know how to act alone.”

PM Naftali Bennet and Northern Command commander Maj. -Gen. Amir Baram, on Israel's northern border, August 3, 2021PM Naftali Bennet and Northern Command commander Maj. -Gen. Amir Baram, on Israel’s northern border, August 3, 2021

“Raisi is the most extreme Iranian president so far, and it’s a stiff competition,” Bennett said. “I call on the European Union: you cannot talk about human rights while honoring a murderer, a hangman, who has killed hundreds of dissidents.” 

The new Iranian president, who took office on Tuesday, has been nicknamed “the Butcher of Tehran,” because of the former judge’s role in the execution of thousands of Iranian dissidents. It earned him US sanctions for human rights violations and war crimes charges in Sweden.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lior Haiat said “the decision of the European Union to send a senior representative to the swearing-in ceremony of the ‘Butcher of Tehran’ is puzzling and shows poor judgment.”

Calling the attack on the Mercer Street an act of state-sponsored terror, Haiat said that the EU’s attendance “gives legitimacy to the Iranian attack and the policy of aggression of the ayatollahs’ government.”

Former EU high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, attended the inauguration of Iran’s outgoing president, Hassan Rouhani.

However, the current ceremony is taking place after a break of nearly two-months in indirect negotiations between Iran and the US to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Mora’s visit to Iran is intended, in part, to break the impasse and revive the talks, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The EU also condemned the attack on the Mercer Street on Monday night, but did not mention Iran in its statement, saying only that it “takes note” of the US, UK and Israeli assessment and that the attack is “unacceptable.” 

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