FILE PHOTO: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points to a red line he drew on the graphic of a bomb used to represent Iran's nuclear program as he addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
Retired Israeli general: Pushing Iran deal exit ‘worst strategic mistake in Israel’s history’

The security establishment in the Jewish state is getting increasingly vocal as prospects dim for a return to the JCPOA.

Major General Isaac Ben Israel played a key role in Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor back in the 1980s and later served as Israel’s chief of air force intelligence and is now chairman of Israel’s space agency. This week he joined a growing chorus emerging from the Israeli security establishment that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s obsessive opposition to the Iran nuclear deal has worsened Israel’s security. 

“Netanyahu’s efforts to persuade the Trump administration to quit the nuclear agreement have turned out to be the worst strategic mistake in Israel’s history,” Ben Israel told journalist Zev Chafets in an interview published at Bloomberg. “We need to end the negativity and encourage the U.S. to conclude a deal that focuses on the main thing.”

Ben Israel dispelled the notion that a military strike would end Iran’s nuclear program and dissuade its leaders from building a nuclear weapon. 

“[A]ll the technology needed to produce a bomb is already in Iranian hands,” he said. “The fact is, Israel can no longer destroy the Iranian nuclear project.” Ben Israel added that if Israel destroyed Iranian nuclear facilities, they would be able to rebuild them “within a year or two.”

The former Israeli general also criticized the idea, put forth by many JCPOA opponents, that talks with Iran should include a whole host of issues outside the nuclear file, like Tehran’s support for terrorism and missile development. 

“It is [a] mistake to complicate things. We can deal with terrorism on our own,” he said.

Ben Israel said he has personally advised current Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “to end Israel’s opposition to the American return to the JCPOA.”

Calls from the Israeli security establishment for the restoration of the Iran nuclear deal have ramped up in recent weeks as talks in Vienna have resumed and many experts are pessimistic about whether the United States with its international partners can reach an agreement with the Iranians. 

Danny Cintrinowicz, who led the Iran branch of the Israeli Military Intelligence’s Research and Analysis Division from 2013 to 2016, recently called Netanyahu’s anti-Iran deal posture a “failure.” Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon agrees with Ben Israel in that it was a “mistake” to withdraw from the JCPOA and and former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said the U.S.-Iran deal exit was “a net negative for Israel.” 

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