The now-contested leader, coming off an 11-day war with Hamas, said a nuclear Iran remains the biggest threat to Israel.
“If we have to choose – I hope it doesn’t happen – between friction with our great friend the United States and eliminating the existential threat – eliminating the existential threat” wins, Netanyahu said.
“I’ve told this to my friend for 40 years, Joe Biden, and I said to him, ‘With or without a deal, we will continue to do everything in our power to thwart the armament of Iran with nuclear weapons,'” Netanyahu said at a ceremony for David Barnea, the incoming head of Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency.
Netanyahu’s remarks come as the U.S. has been participating in talks to reinstate the 2015 deal, a campaign promise of President Biden, in Vienna, Austria. The Jewish state leader has been a vocal opponent of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which relieves Iran of sanctions in exchange for perceived curbs on nuclear activity.
“I can tell you that I hope that the United States will not go back to the old JCPOA because we believe that that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy,” Netanyahu said last week.
Israel also says any deal must address Iran’s support for militant groups, such as Hamas. The terror group told its Iranian backers “our factories and workshops have resumed production of thousands of missiles to stop the [attacks] of Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” said Fathi Hamad, a member of Hamas’ politburo, according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
Meanwhile, Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and says the nuclear deal should be reinstated without any changes.
The U.S. pulled out of the landmark 2015 deal in 2018 after President Donald Trump said the pact needed to be renegotiated. He then reimposed heavy sanctions on the Islamic republic in an unsuccessful attempt to bring Tehran into new talks.
Iran reacted by steadily increasing its violations of the deal, which is intended to prevent the country from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran began enriching uranium to a greater purity, stockpiling more than allowed, and began to use more advanced centrifuges in an attempt to pressure the world powers remaining in the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — for economic relief.
Both Iran and U.S. have asserted that the other must make the first move. Biden says Iran needs to return to compliance before the U.S. will return to the deal, and Iran has said it is prepared to reverse all of its violations but Washington must remove all sanctions imposed under Trump.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.