11:00 GMT26 February 2021
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    While no actual steps have been implemented to bring the 2015 nuclear deal back to life under the new US administration so far, Israel has continued to raise concerns about Iran's alleged plans of developing a nuke, which Tehran has strongly denied and dismissed as efforts to target the country.

    Israeli settlement affairs minister Tzachi Hanegbi believes that the United States will not target the alleged nuclear facilities in Iran and Israel will have to either accept that fact, or "act independently" in order to tackle it, The Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

    “The United States will never attack the nuclear facilities in Iran. Israel must decide whether it will accept a nuclear Iran,” Hanegbi said, as quoted by the newspaper. “Israel will be forced to act independently to remove this danger.”

    “It’s possible that in the future there will be no choice [but to attack Iran militarily],” Hanegbi said. “I hope that when our leadership is met with this dilemma, it won’t accept [a nuclear-armed Iran].”

    Hanegbi's comments come as the Biden administration signals its readiness to discuss with allies plans for talks with Iran, including the possibility of expanding the 2015 nuclear deal, or JCPOA. Tehran has said that any progress in reviving the agreement depended on the practical steps of Washington, including the lifting of sanctions. 

    Tzachi Hanegbi, who is now Israel's settlement affairs minister, attends a meeting at the European Commission's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, January 31, 2018.
    Tzachi Hanegbi, who is now Israel's settlement affairs minister, attends a meeting at the European Commission's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, January 31, 2018.

    According to Hanegbi, Iran has also demonstrated a “very limited” capacity to take retaliatory action against Israel, including airstrikes on alleged Iranian-linked military facilities in Syria and its promise to take revenge for the assassination of prominent nuclear physician Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, for which Tehran has blamed the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

    Meanwhile, the White House said that US relations with Israel are important despite the absence of a phone conversation between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu, who is facing elections in March, had a series of public disagreements with the Barack Obama administration where Biden served as vice president.

    As Biden took office, however, the Israeli PM congratulated him on assuming the job, and expressed hope for cooperation in confronting “common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran.”

    Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear program is designed to serve purely peaceful purposes. On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Iran does not intend to build a nuclear weapon, arguing that if it did, it would have done it “some time ago”. Instead, Iran has decided that nukes would not “augment our security and are in contradiction to our ideological views.” 

    Zarif also proposed that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who is a coordinator of the joint commission on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) implementation, could “choreograph” the establishment of the Iran-US dialogue on returning to the nuclear deal.

    On Tuesday, Iran's envoy to the international organizations in Vienna Kazem Gharibabadi said that Tehran had begun installing advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its underground nuclear facility in Fordow. In December, Iran passed a law to increase its uranium enrichment to 20 percent and stop UN inspections of its nuclear sites in response to the killing of Fakhrizadeh.

    Under the JCPOA, Iran has to keep the uranium enrichment level under 3.67 percent and only use first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. However, after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran began to gradually abandon its commitments under the agreement. 

    In late January, Zarif said that “the window of opportunity” for the new US administration to return to the deal had limits, as Iran was determined to achieve the removal of sanctions.
    Likud Party, US, Iran, Israel
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