Israeli Prime Minister has told Iran that Israel “knows” it has been “conducting experiments to develop nuclear weapons” near the city of Abadeh, at a secret site Iran recently destroyed.
The claim, made during a dramatic televised address to the nation on Monday evening, led Benjamin Netanyahu’s domestic rivals to call it a PR exercise from the PM to bolster his security credentials ahead of next week’s Israeli election.
In his hastily-convened TV address, delivered live during a prime-time evening slot, he said: “This is what I have to say to the tyrants of Tehran: Israel knows what you’re doing, Israel knows when you’re doing it, and Israel knows where you’re doing it.”
His two main political rivals – Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, joint leaders of Blue and White – quickly blasted the prime minister for playing party-politics with sensitive intelligence information and using it “for propaganda”.
Gantz said it showed the PM’s judgement was “flawed” and that “even in his last days as prime minister, Netanyahu worries only about Netanyahu”. Lapid said it showed “shocking national irresponsibility”, adding: “The Iranian nuclear programme cannot be used for campaign shenanigans.”
Netanyahu used satellite imagery purportedly of the Iranian site from June, but said it was destroyed by Iran the following month. “When Iran realised that we uncovered the site… they destroyed the site. They just wiped it out.”
He added: “Here they conducted nuclear experiments for nuclear weapons. This is the site after they understood that we were on to them. They destroyed the evidence or at least tried to destroy the evidence.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif mocked Netanyahu’s claims as “crying wolf,” adding that the Israeli leader wanted war.
Last year Netanyahu arranged a similar prime-time TV slot to describe how Israel had obtained secret Iranian nuclear paperwork, much of which turned out to be more than a decade old.
Netanyahu’s renewed focus on the Iranian nuclear issue comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was now using more advanced centrifuges in direct violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, from which US President Donald Trump withdrew.
Iran has said that the re-imposition of sanctions means that it is no longer bound by the terms of the agreement, and that it intends to enrich uranium to a level previously prohibited.