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Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday at a ceremony for the new director of Israel's Mossad spy agency that Israel must prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon even at the cost of tensions with the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The U.S. is holding indirect talks with Iran on a mutual return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Netanyahu, who may be in his final days as prime minister, is a fierce critic of the deal and contends a U.S. return would take the pressure off the Iranian regime.

Between the lines: Netanyahu has amped up his rhetoric on Iran in recent days, since a ceasefire was reached with Hamas and his rivals moved toward an alternative government that could oust him within a week.

What he's saying: “An Iranian nuclear bomb is a threat for the continuation of the Zionist project and we must fight it relentlessly. If we have to choose between friction with our great friend the U.S. and the elimination of this existential threat, the elimination of the threat will come first," Netanyahu said.

  • He stressed that he told President Biden Israel would continue its efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining the bomb with or without a nuclear deal. “Containment is not an option," Netanyahu said.

The other side: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz attacked Netanyahu for his remarks and claimed he was damaging Israel’s relations with the Biden administration.

  • “The Biden administration is a true friend of Israel and Israel will have no better partner than the U.S. and if there are differences they will be solved in direct talks in closed rooms and not through defiant rhetoric that could harm Israel’s security," Gantz said.

What’s next: Gantz is planning to visit Washington later this week and will meet Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday, Israeli officials say.

  • The talks are expected to focus on emergency U.S. military aid to replenish Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system and supply the Israeli Air Force with new munitions.
  • Several Democratic senators and members of Congress have raised concerns about additional arms sales to Israel after the fighting in Gaza.

Go deeper

May 31, 2021 - World

IAEA says Iran has failed to explain uranium traces found at several sites

The flag of Iran is seen in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Headquarters in Vienna. Photo: Michael Gruber/Getty Images

The United Nations’ atomic watchdog said Monday that Iran has failed to explain the presence of "traces of uranium found at several undeclared sites," Reuters reported.

The big picture: The International Atomic Energy Agency also said that it has not been able to access data necessary for tracking the development of Iran's nuclear program since the end of February, when Tehran began restricting international inspections at its facilities, per AP.

May 30, 2021 - World

Bennett tells party members he is headed for a "change government" that will oust Netanyahu

Naftali Bennett (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu. Photos: GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images; ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP via Getty Images

The leader of Israel's right wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, told members of his party at a meeting Sunday he's moving forward with joining opposition leader Yair Lapid to form a power sharing government that would oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why it matters: A new "change government" would make Bennett prime minister and bring an end to 12 years of Benjamin Netanyahu's rule. The development could end the political crisis that has led to four elections in two years.

May 30, 2021 - World

Israeli right wing leader announces plan to oust Netanyahu with "change government"

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett. Photo: GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images

The leader of Israel's right wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, said in a speech Sunday he'll do everything in his power to form a unity government with opposition leader Yair Lapid “to get the country back on the right track."

Why it matters: A new "change government" could end the political crisis that has led to four elections in Israel in two years. It would make Bennett prime minister, bringing an end to 12 years of Benjamin Netanyahu's rule.