Israel fears Iran will break the nuclear weapons barrier under cover of the US elections

During his visit to the Pentagon, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned his US counterpart that 'time is running out' to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability; In the background is the fear that Tehran will take advantage of the attention on the November elections and the war in Israel to quickly build a nuclear weapon

Tzippy Shmilovitz, Washington, Yoav Zitun, Itamar Eichner|
In his meeting Tuesday with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stressed to him that "The greatest threat to the future of the world, is Iran. And time is running out. Now is the time to materialize the commitment of American Administrations over the years- the promise to prevent Iran, from possessing nuclear weapons."
Behind these words is the great fear in Israel that Iran will take advantage of the election period in the U.S. to achieve nuclear weapons capability.
Yoav Gallant arrives at the Pentagon and meets with Lloyd Austin
(Video: Elad Malka)
The U.S. presidential elections will be held this November, and the fear in Israel is that Tehran realizes that Washington will be too busy to deal with them and will take advantage of this to quickly break the nuclear barrier. Also, Israel believes that the war it is waging in the south and north may also motivate the Iranians to move up its timetable.
The Minister of Defense made an effort in his talks with the American officials to reach conclusions on the issue of the crisis on the northern border with Hezbollah, as well as to resolve the arms crisis between the U.S. and Israel, but he encountered many difficulties in advancing this issue due to the harsh impression left by the video published by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which angered the Biden administration. Sources familiar with the matter say that no progress has been made on the issue of the weapons shipment due to Netanyahu's statements.
In the meantime, the U.S. and Israel reached an agreement in principle on the convening of the Leshem forum - the strategic dialogue forum between the two countries that was supposed to convene last week, and was canceled at the last minute by the White House in protest of the video published by Netanyahu in connection, while some of the participants were already in Washington and some were on their way to it. There is still no date for the forum, but it is estimated that it will take place in July - even before Netanyahu's arrival in Washington on July 22. The strategic dialogue forum is supposed to discuss a series of burning issues, chief among them the Iranian threat.
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יואב גלנט מגיע לפגישה עם לויד אוסטין
יואב גלנט מגיע לפגישה עם לויד אוסטין
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin greets Defense Minister Yoav Gallant upon his arrival at the Pentagon
(Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
On Wednesday, Gallant will meet with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, continuing his series of meetings with senior U.S. government officials that has included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Biden's envoy to the Middle East Amos Hochstein, CIA Director William Burns and Biden advisor Brett McGurk, White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.
Gallant on Tuesday visited the Pentagon, where he met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
At the beginning of the meeting, Austin referred to the fighting on the northern border. "The United States will always support Israel's right to defend itself, and the United States will always ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself," he said. "Hezbollah's provocations threaten to drag the Israeli and Lebanese people into a war that they do not want, and such a war would be a catastrophe for Lebanon and it would be devastating for innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians. Another war between Israel and Hezbollah could easily become a regional war with terrible consequences for the Middle East, and so diplomacy is by far the best way to prevent more escalation."
Austin added that the U.S. government is "urgently looking for a diplomatic solution." Austin and Gallant both referred to the challenges that are on the table in the Gaza Strip, in the north and against Iran.
Austin referred to the war in Gaza and the hostage deal. "I want to also commend Israel for the comprehensive cease-fire and hostage proposal that it has offered, as outlined by President Biden and endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. The onus is on Hamas to accept this roadmap to a durable end to this war, and the failure of Hamas to accept this important proposal is prolonging the agony of Palestinian civilians and Israeli civilians alike," he said.
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יואב גלנט בפגישה עם לויד אוסטין בפנטגון
יואב גלנט בפגישה עם לויד אוסטין בפנטגון
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the halls of the Pentagon
(Photo: Ariel Harmoni, Ministry of Defense)
"Now, Israel recently conducted a daring operation to rescue four hostages unjustly held by Hamas in Gaza, and we won't rest until all of the hostages are safely home, including American citizens. But the only way to bring them all home is disciplined — is principled diplomacy, and we must not miss this moment and we must not risk indefinite war and insurgency," he added.
He also stressed that "Israel is in a hard fight against a cruel and ruthless foe, but I learned firsthand that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians, so Israel must continue to do more to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and that's both a moral necessity and a strategic imperative."
Austin added that he is "extremely concerned about the attacks by violent Israeli extremists against innocent Palestinians in the West Bank."
Gallant said that "we are at a crossroads, that will impact the entire Middle East. I am here to discuss the ways to achieve our common goals – ensuring the security of the State of Israel, and projecting the powerful ties between our countries." He added that "we must also discuss readiness, for every possible scenario."
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יואב גלנט בפגישה עם לויד אוסטין בפנטגון
יואב גלנט בפגישה עם לויד אוסטין בפנטגון
Meeting at the Pentagon
(Photo: Ariel Harmoni, Ministry of Defense)
"Mr. Secretary as soon as Hamas launched its brutal at- — brutal attack on October 7th, you were the first to fly to Israel on October 13th. You stood with us then and you stand with us today. The people of Israel will never forget these moments. The president, the administration and you personally, Mr. Secretary, have been with us since day one. This includes working together to defend Israel against the massive attack by Iran and its proxies," Gallant also said.
"In Gaza, we must work to ensure the return of 120 hostages – with no exception. We must end the terrorist regime of Hamas. In the north, we are determined to establish security – changing reality on the ground, and bringing our communities home safely," Gallant said, laying out Israel's priorities.
The two men also referred to Iran, and Austin said that the U.S. will not let Iran obtain nuclear weapons.
Regarding Israel-US relations, the Defense Minister said: "Above all, we must discuss exploiting our ties, projecting power together, discussing areas of disagreement as friends do and standing strong together in the face of attacks, of missile attacks to diplomatic attacks on the global arena.
Meanwhile, Canada on Tuesday reiterated a call for its citizens to leave Lebanon while they can, saying the security situation in the country was becoming increasingly volatile and unpredictable due to the conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah. "My message to Canadians has been clear since the beginning of the crisis in the Middle East: it is not the time to travel to Lebanon. And for Canadians currently in Lebanon, it is time to leave, while commercial flights remain available," Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement.
Over the weekend, the Pentagon announced that the aircraft carrier Eisenhower, which is currently in the Red Sea, will return to its home base in the U.S.- but first will remain for a "short time" in the area. The aircraft carrier Roosevelt will replace her later.
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