Israel has welcomed U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, but the move is raising tensions in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been one of the world’s most vocal critics of the Iran deal, saying it clears the way for the Islamic Republic to acquire a nuclear bomb. He described Trump’s decision to pull out of the agreement as “historic.”
“Israel thanks President Trump for his courageous leadership, his commitment to confront the terrorist regime in Tehran, and his commitment to ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, not today, not in a decade, not ever,” Netanyahu said.
Iranian leaders have often called for the destruction of Israel, and Netanyahu sees Tehran’s nuclear program as a threat to the Jewish state’s existence.
But a more immediate threat is on Israel’s northern border with Syria, where Iran has been establishing a military presence during the Syrian civil war. Israel says this will not be tolerated and has secretly bombed Iranian targets inside Syria over the past few months.
Iran has threatened to retaliate and, just as Trump made his announcement, the Israeli army ordered bomb shelters to open on the Golan Heights. The Israeli military said it detected suspicious Iranian troop movements in Syria, and warned of a possible cross-border attack.
Yaakov Nagel, a former Israeli national security adviser, says Israel is prepared.
“Israel is strong. We know how to defend ourselves. We are not going to allow anyone to jeopardize our security and the security of our citizens,” Nagel said.
At the same time, Nagel believes fears of a regional conflagration are premature.
“No one wants a war,” he said. “Usually, wars are coming because people are talking about war too much. Iran does not [want] war, [the] United States does not [want] war, Israel of course does not [want] war. But if someone will jeopardize us or try to test us, unfortunately you will have to understand what we can do.”
The military is on high alert, and Israel has warned Iran that if it dares to launch an attack from Syria, it will pay a heavy price.