Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett compared Iran to a failed state which has infected every country it touches in the region with its dysfunction.
Bennett was speaking in an exclusive interview with Iran International’s Arash Alaei in Washington DC, just hours after the ex-PM had met officials from the Biden administration and been reassured that the US would not tolerate a nuclear Iran.
He said: “Islamic Republic’s biggest export is failed states.
“Every state that the regime touches fails. It touches Lebanon, Lebanon fails; it touches Syria, Syria fails; it touches Yemen, Yemen fails.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Bennett spoke about Iran’s proxy war with Israel, and the historic bilateral ties that according to the Bible began when Persian King Cyrus the Great liberated the Jews from the Babylonian captivity to resettle and rebuild Jerusalem.
He underlined that the Islamic Republic spends tens of billions of dollars every year to support terror groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad instead of its own people, noting that such a substantial amount should be invested in Iran’s clean water and air issues.
“If I take all of the operations, meaning what they do in Lebanon, what they do in Yemen, what they do in Syria, what they do around the world and the salaries of the Qods forces (IRGC’s extraterritorial division) -- which are the external export of the revolution -- we're talking about a ballpark of $20 to $30 billion a year,” Bennett said.
“Unfortunately, the Islamic Republic simply does not care about its people.”
According to Bennett’s estimates, the Islamic Republic can pay at least two months of minimum wage to each and every one of its 88 million population per year with the money spent on its proxy war.
He also referred to the ‘Women, Life, Liberty’ protests, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following his arrest for “improper hijab” in September 2022, and the regime's bloody crackdown on the voices of dissent via heavy sentences and restricting access to internet.
A scene of Iranians’ protests in the capital Tehran
Bennett said that young boys and girls should be able to pursue their dreams, be free to roam social media, and say whatever they want wherever they want, boasting that in Israel “no one will ever stop them on the street and tell them what to do, what to wear and what not to wear." “Every child in Iran should have the ability to pursue happiness and pursue their dreams,” he added.
About the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Bennett said that the value of the JCPOA has eroded because most of the critical provisions are fading, noting that “both America and Israel are fully coordinated on preventing the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
Differentiating between Iran’s intentions of making a nuclear bomb and its technical capabilities, he said, “It's not that simple to produce a bomb. We don't want them to acquire a nuclear bomb and we don't want to depend on the intentions that are in the head of one person, Khamenei. Therefore, we don't want that capability to exist in the Islamic Republic... because that would prolong the terrorist nature of the Islamic Republic.”
He also touched on the issue of keeping the Revolutionary Guards in the US list of terrorist groups and called on other countries to follow suit. “President Biden himself committed to me directly when I was prime minister just a few months ago that he would keep the IRGC on the terror list permanently because the IRGC is the world's largest terror group,” he said, adding: “I see across the world that more and more countries are going down that route, be it Australia, the UK, etc.
“The IRGC not only is a huge terror group, it's also one of the biggest violators of human rights on Earth. It's killing its own people. This is crazy. Imagine in America if you had its own Armed Forces killing Americans, that would be crazy.”
On Wednesday, the current Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke to CNBC in a wide-ranging interview similar to that of Bennett, also warning countries against bolstering ties with the Islamic Republic.
In reaction to Riyadh’s China-brokered deal with its arch-rival Tehran, Netanyahu said, “Those who partner with Iran partner with misery. Look at Lebanon, look at Yemen, look at Syria, look at Iraq.” He added that “95% of the problems in the Middle East emanate from Iran.”