Israel will have no choice but to act if Iran enriches uranium above 60% purity, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi warned on Monday in an address at a counterterrorism conference at Reichman University in Herzliya.
“If Iran moves to enrich uranium above 60% and we identify it—and there is no possibility that we won’t, that the world would not recognize it—the result is that Israel would act out of necessity,” said Hanegbi. “There would be no choice.”
Such a development would indicate that “Iran is clearly pursuing a [nuclear] bomb, as a policy, and we cannot risk our fate,” added Hanegbi, without specifying how Jerusalem would respond.
Earlier this year, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency detected “particles” of uranium enriched to 83.7% at Iran’s underground nuclear site in Fordow.
At the time, reports quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying that Jerusalem did not consider the development as a trigger for military action “because Tehran didn’t amass any of the material at that level.”
Iran has been enriching uranium to up to 60% purity since April 2021.
Hanegbi’s comments come a week after an IAEA report showed that Tehran has continued to amass uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog report pegged the Islamic Republic’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 60% at 121.6 kilograms (268 pounds), compared to 114 kilograms (250 pounds) in May and 87.5 kilograms (192 pounds) in February.
Uranium enriched to 60% purity is a short technical step away from 90%, considered weapons-grade.
Uranium used for civilian purposes only requires 3.67% purity. No country maintaining a purely civilian nuclear program has ever enriched uranium to the degree that Iran has.
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed an emerging U.S.-Iran deal for the release of five American prisoners in exchange for Washington unfreezing billions of dollars in Iranian assets.
While details of the emerging agreement remain unknown, U.S. and Iranian officials expect it to be completed by the end of September.
In June, The New York Times reported the broad outlines of the indirect negotiations, some of which reportedly took place in the Gulf state of Oman.
The overall agreement would see Tehran promise to limit uranium enrichment to its current production level of 60%. Iran would also promise to put a stop to attacks against American contractors in Syria and Iraq by its terrorist proxies.
Additionally, Iran would promise to increase its cooperation with international nuclear inspectors and halt ballistic missile sales to Russia.
In exchange, the United States would agree not to ratchet up economic sanctions, to stop confiscating Iranian oil, and not to seek punitive resolutions against Iran at the United Nations or the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In other remarks at the conference, Hanegbi said the Palestinian Authority has held talks with Israeli, US and Saudi officials regarding the normalization of ties between Israel and the Saudis.
“It is important that the Palestinians are part of the process,” Hanegbi said.
He stressed, “We are in favor of a significant Palestinian component, under the clear restrictions put forward by the Prime Minister, that we can’t accept any process that would harm Israel’s security.”