Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday opened the first cabinet meeting of his new government with a condemnation of the newly elected Iranian president. He said Iran’s choice was a sign for world powers to “wake up” before returning to a nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Iran’s hardline judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected Saturday with 62 percent of the vote amid a historically low voter turnout and as all major competitors were disqualified or pulled out.
He is sanctioned by the US in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Raisi has not commented specifically on the event.
Bennett said at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that “of all the people that [Iranian 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 that executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens throughout the years.”
He said that the new government would follow the previous Israeli administration’s policy of determinedly opposing Iran reaching a nuclear weapon.
“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,” the prime minister said, speaking briefly in English.
Iran and world powers were set to resume indirect talks in Vienna on Sunday to resurrect Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal, which granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
For weeks, Iranian and American diplomats have been negotiating a return to the accord in the Austrian capital through European intermediaries.
Sunday’s talks are the first since the election of Raisi, which will put hardliners firmly in control across Iran’s government.
The landmark nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, which Israel opposed, collapsed after former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew Washington from the accord in 2018. That decision has seen Iran, over time, abandon every limitation on enrichment and Tehran is currently enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though still short of weapons-grade levels.
Bennett said Raisi’s election as Iranian president was “the last chance for the world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement and to understand who they’re doing business with.
“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,” he said.