Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that the election of an extremist conservative who has been the target of U.S. sanctions as the next Iranian president was a final opportunity for world powers to "wake up" to the true nature of the regime in Tehran.
"This weekend Iran chose a new president — Ebrahim Raisi. Of all the people that [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei could have chosen, he chose the hangman of Tehran, the man infamous among Iranians and across the world for leading the death committees which executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens throughout the years," Bennett said.
The prime minister was speaking in English, in a message apparently directed at the international community amid efforts by world powers to revive the Iranian nuclear agreement abandoned by former U.S. president Donald Trump in 2018.
"Raisi's selection, I would say, is the last chance for the world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement and to understand who they are doing business with," said Bennett.
"These guys are murderers - mass murderers. A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction that will enable it to not kill thousands but millions. Israel's position will not change on this," the prime minister said.
Raisi, a judge and cleric considered a close ally of Khamenei, has sentenced thousands of political dissidents to be executed during his decades-long career.
Meanwhile, negotiators for Iran and six world powers were to Sunday adjourn talks on reviving the nuclear deal and return to respective capitals for consultations as remaining differences cannot be easily overcome, Tehran's delegation chief said.
"We are now closer than ever to an agreement but the distance that exists between us and an agreement remains and bridging it is not an easy job," Abbas Araqchi told Iranian state TV from Vienna. "We will return to Tehran tonight."
It was unclear when formal negotiations would resume.
The new coalition in Jerusalem has made clear that it will continue previous governments' strong opposition to the 2015 pact, which aims to curb Iran's military nuclear activities in return for the lifting of stringent sanctions against the country.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Saturday on Twitter that Raisi's election "should prompt renewed determination to immediately halt Iran’s nuclear program and put an end to its destructive regional ambitions."
He branded the president-elect the "Butcher of Tehran" who was "responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iranians."
Speaking last Sunday in a speech to Knesset before he was confirmed as prime minister, Bennett said that a renewal of the 2015 deal with Iran "would be a mistake that would again grant legitimization to one of the darkest and violent regimes in the world."
Israel, he said, would not allow the Islamic Republic to obtain nuclear weapons.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi was set to deliver a similar message at meetings with senior U.S. officials in Washington on Sunday.
Kochavi, in his first official visit to the U.S., will be the first high-ranking Israeli to visit Washington since the establishment of the new government.
The military chief was scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, among others, to discuss Iran and its entrenchment efforts across the Middle East; the military expansion of Iran's Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, including its precision missile program; and other regional challenges.
Kochavi was to also relay Israel's request for U.S. financial aid to replenish IDF weaponry, including batteries for the Iron Dome missile defense system, following the 11 days of fighting in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in May.
The IDF chief was to due to brief his hosts on the fighting, including the IDF's post-war evaluation of its use of precision weaponry and the advanced intelligence tools deployed during the conflict.
Kochavi was also scheduled to meet with senior members of Washington-based think tanks in order to present Israel's position on the ongoing conflict with Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza.
Speaking in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told a group of visiting American defense officials that the government was working with the Biden administration to beef up monitoring of Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear capabilities.
“We are working closely with our American allies in order to both increase oversight at this time and to clarify to Iran that all options are on the table, always,” Gantz said.