Israeli officials from across the political spectrum expressed "tremendous concern" about the Biden administration’s efforts to secure a new nuclear deal with Iran, telling a group of U.S. lawmakers visiting the country that Tehran is closer than ever to developing a nuclear weapon.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), who sat down with top Israeli officials during a bipartisan congressional delegation to Israel earlier this month, told the Washington Free Beacon that fears about a new deal have reached a critical mass in the country as the Biden administration approaches the final stages of its negotiations with Iran.
"It’s important to note that I didn’t talk to anyone who was in favor of a new JCPOA," Blackburn said, referring to the nuclear deal by its official acronym. "There’s tremendous concern that is wrapped in the question of why the United States would choose to enter back into a JCPOA knowing that Iran is a part of this axis of evil."
Blackburn, who was joined on her trip by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), met with Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and national security adviser Eyal Hulata. The lawmakers assured these leaders that the United States will bolster Israel’s security infrastructure even as the Biden administration works to unfreeze billions of dollars in Iranian assets that will fuel its regional terrorism enterprise.
Israel is one of the most vocal opponents of a new deal with Iran, which it maintains will do very little to rein in Iran’s contested nuclear program. With negotiations reaching their final stages, Israel is bracing itself for an uptick in Iran-sponsored terror attacks. Already, Iran promised to annihilate Tel Aviv and Haifa, two of the country’s largest cities, when it unveiled a new drone this week specifically designed for strikes on Israel.
Blackburn, who also met with the Mossad, Israel’s secret service, said the Jewish state is closely monitoring Iran’s nuclear progression. While the senator would not disclose details of these assessments, she said Israel is tracking exactly "where Iran is on nuclear capabilities and their push to enrich uranium and create a nuclear warhead."
"They are being very watchful, very mindful, [and] they are very appreciative of the work we are doing with them" to bolster missile defense systems such as the Iron Dome and David’s Sling, which has proved particularly effective against rocket attacks from Palestinian militants, which also receive support from Iran, Blackburn said.
"What we do know," Blackburn added, "is that there is tremendous concern from the Israelis about Iran and their ability to increase their enrichment capability and move to the point that they could develop a warhead."
Asked if Israel would strike Iran if it assessed that the country was on the cusp of building an atomic bomb, Blackburn said the Jewish state will most certainly "take the steps that are necessary to defend themselves."
"Israel is keenly aware that the members of the axis of evil do not respect the ability of Israel or other countries to protect their sovereignty," she said.
Blackburn also said that the Abraham Accords, the historic peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors brokered by the Trump administration, have helped solidify a regional anti-Iran coalition.
The peace deals "have opened doors of opportunity for Israel to work with others in the region who share their concern about where and how Iran is going to move forward with being a truly bad actor in that region," Blackburn said.