U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday cited comments by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot as proof that the nuclear deal with Iran has improved Israel's security, Haaretz reported.
Kerry's comments came at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, in which he said the deal signed between Iran and six world powers in July cut off all of Iran's pathways to a nuclear bomb, "thereby making the world safer for us and our allies."
"And if you doubt that,” Kerry told the members of the Committee, “read the speech by General Eizenkot, the head of the IDF forces of Israel, who recently, at a security conference in Israel, said that now, because of this agreement, there is no longer an existential threat to Israel from Iran with respect to the nuclear threat.”
He was apparently referring to comments made last month by the IDF Chief of Staff at the Institute for National Security Studies’ annual conference in Tel Aviv, where he said that although the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers contained “many risks,” it also featured "opportunities" for Israel.
Eizenkot said at the time that Iran will still aspire to obtain nuclear weapons, but that the Islamic Republic “is waging a battle against Israel by proxy.” Today, he said, the IDF’s main enemy is Hezbollah.
The very next day, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon addressed the same forum and responded to Eizenkot, insisting that Iran was Israel's biggest enemy. Ya'alon said that after the sanctions were lifted, "Iran has been signing deals worth tens of billions of dollars with anyone willing to sell them, and to fund and arm their proxies in the area."
The agreement reached last summer between Iran and the permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany was recently implemented, after the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) announced that Iran met its initial obligations under the terms of the deal.
The removal of the sanctions on Iran came despite a December 2 report from the IAEA which concluded that Iran made a "coordinated" effort to develop nuclear weapons in the past, although the efforts apparently ended at an early stage.
Israel strongly opposed the deal with Iran, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warning it would not block Iran's path to nuclear weapons.
But Kerry has continued to insist that the deal makes Israel safer and, as Haaretz noted, Tuesday was not the first time the Secretary of State cited Israeli top brass to rebuff criticism of the Iran deal.
In January 2015, when Republicans in the Senate and the House pushed for new sanctions against Iran while the deal was still being negotiated, Kerry revealed to the Senate that he heard a senior Israeli intelligence official met with senators and warned that new sanctions "would be like throwing a grenade into the process."
Kerry didn't name the official, but he was revealed a few days later to be then-Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.