Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting dedicated to outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel, said Iran was determined to achieve nuclear capability.
"This is a critical point in time, and Germany's position is crucial. In Israel, we are taking action and operating against Iran in every dimension – including daily actions to stop it flooding our region with weapons," the prime minister said.
"The Iranians are stalling and their centrifuges are spinning. Israel's responsibility is to make sure, with deeds and not with words, that Iran will never have nuclear weapons."
"Nuclear weapons in the hands of such an extremist and violent regime will adversely change the region and the world. For us it is an existential issue," he said.
Merkel said the 2015 nuclear deal was far from perfect but was better than no deal at all.
“I see a responsibility for Russia and China here,” she said adding that every day without a deal is a day that Iran continues to enrich uranium.
She thanked the cabinet for the warm welcome. "We will remain committed to Israel's security in the future as well," she said but added, "sometimes there are disagreements between us, such as on the Palestinian issue."
The chancellor also said Israeli German relations should not be based only on the memory of the Holocaust.
In a press conference held after the cabinet meeting, Bennett responded to Merkel's statements and said Israel was not ignoring the Palestinian conflict.
"I am pragmatic," Bennett said. "We are taking the necessary steps to improve life for everyone," he said.
Earlier on Sunday, Bennett thanked Merkel for her long lasting friendship.
"The bilateral relations during your tenure at chancellor became stronger than ever and transformed into a true friendship, thanks to your leadership," Bennett told Merkel
Foreign Minister and alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid also thanked Merkel in his speech during the cabinet meeting.
"There was not a single moment in your tenure when you tried to dismiss the memory of the Holocaust," Lapid said.
"You made your people look at history with almost cruel sincerity. There was no hesitation in your struggle against anti-Semitism and the protection of the Jewish community."
Under Merkel, who arrived late Saturday night for her final visit as chancellor, after more than 16 years in office, Germany became Israel's largest trade partner in Europe, and has provided solid support for Israel during wars as well as during diplomatic crises.
This visit marks Merkel's first visit to Israel since Bennett took office earlier this year, and her last as chancellor after the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) came ahead of her CDU/CSU conservative bloc in this year's German national election.
During the visit she will meet with President Issac Herzog, visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, and meet with Israeli high-tech industry leaders.
The German leader will also receive an honorary doctorate from Haifa's Technion Institute and participate in a panel discussion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
First published: 13:29, 10.10.21