Israeli PM Naftali Bennett not opposed to a 'good deal' on Iran nuclear programme

The change of tone follows years of opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has urged negotiators from the US and Europe to take a firmer line against Iran. Photo: AP
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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday he was not opposed to what he called a “good” deal on Iran's nuclear programme.

It was a change of tone by the Israeli leader but Mr Bennett was sceptical about the outcome of nuclear talks taking place in Vienna.

Mr Bennett's comments come just a day after an eighth round of discussions began between Iran and the EU, Russia, China, the UK and France.

The US withdrew from the process in 2018.

Despite his comments, Mr Bennett said that, regardless of the outcome of the talks, Israel would be able to take its own military decisions.

"Israel will always maintain its right to act and will defend itself, by itself,” he said. The US has largely urged Israel to hold back on any military confrontation with Iran so far.

“At the end of the day, of course, there can be a good deal,” Mr Bennett told Israeli Army Radio. “Is that, at the moment, under the current dynamic, expected to happen? No, because a much harder stance is needed.”

Tehran's new administration has taken a hard line in the negotiations. However, as talks began on Tuesday, negotiators expressed a degree of optimism.

Mr Bennett has urged negotiators from the US and Europe to take a firmer line against Iran. Israel is not a party to the talks but has engaged in diplomacy on the sidelines in an attempt to sway allies to put more pressure on Iran to rein in its nuclear programme.

US remains outside 2015 accord

The 2015 nuclear deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. But in 2018, Donald Trump, the US president at the time, left the deal and imposed sanctions on Iran.

The other signatories have struggled to keep the agreement alive despite Iran's compliance for well over a year after the US withdrawal.

Israel has long been vocally opposed to a deal with Iran and pushed the Trump administration to abandon the deal. Israel says it wants an improved deal that places tighter restrictions on Tehran's nuclear activities, addresses its long-range missile program and its support for hostile proxies along Israel’s borders.

However, Iran's missile programme has largely been left off the agenda.

Updated: December 28, 2021, 9:07 AM