By Mick Krever, CNN
A bad nuclear deal between Iran and world powers “will lead to war,” Naftali Bennett, Israeli economy minister and leader of the hawkish Jewish Home party, warned on Monday in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“There’s no one who wants a war less than us,” Bennett said. “However, it’s one of those cases where a bad deal will lead to a war, and a good deal with actually prevent war.”
A good deal, he said, would be one that “dismantles the nuclear weapon production machine.”
He warned of a so-called breakout capability, in which Iran would not actually build a nuclear weapon, but rather the ability to produce one, at the flick of a switch, at any given time, within a few weeks – he said “within six weeks.”
If a “bad deal” is brokered with Iran, he said, military action will become inevitable.
He cited the Israeli strikes on nuclear installations in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria – which the country has never publically admitted – in 2007.
“In 2007, Israel allegedly attacked Bashar al-Assad’s nuclear core,” Bennett said. “And had we not done that – allegedly – Bashar al-Assad would today have a nuclear weapon.”
“If five years from now, or ten years from now, a nuclear suitcase blows up in New York, it will be traced down to these very fateful days,” Bennett said.
“Israel has the ability to defend itself, and Israel will defend itself if necessary.”
World powers are gearing up for another round of direct negotiations with Iran, after foreign ministers left Geneva last earlier this month without a deal.
The current negotiations are aimed at having an interim agreement where Iran limits its nuclear program and increases transparency in return for what the West says will be some reversible sanctions relief.
“Iran right now is on the ropes,” Bennett said, who was in the U.S. to push for sustained pressure on Iran.
“Now is the time to present Iran with an either/or decision,” Bennett said. “Either retain your nuclear program or you have an economy. You can’t have it both ways.”
The White House has asked Congress to hold off on pushing for more pressure, and President Obama was set to meet with top senators on Tuesday to discuss the talks.
Bennett described the U.S. as Israel’s “strongest ally,” and said that the countries agree on preventing Iran from acquiring a bomb, but admitted that “there is a degree where we don’t really agree on how you get to that.”
Talks with Iran are not the only high-stakes negotiations taking place on the Middle East, however.
U.S.-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinians are currently on-going, albeit with some difficulties.
Bennett, who brought with him to the interview a coin he said was “used by Jews 2,000 years ago in the state of Israel,” opposes the two-state solution that most observers agree is the desired outcome.
“I think trying to enforce [an] artificial state in the heart of Israel, in Jerusalem, is a grave mistake,” Bennett said.
“If the Palestinians want peace they have to do one simple thing: Recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland. That’s all. But if they don’t do that, if they don’t recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, they can’t expect peace.”