Netanyahu praises Trump's 'bold' withdrawal from Iran deal

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed strong support for US President Donald Trump's "bold" decision Tuesday to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which the Israeli leader has repeatedly criticised.

Israel's army meanwhile asked authorities in the occupied Golan Heights to open and prepare missile shelters due to "irregular activity by Iranian forces" over the demarcation line in Syria.

"Israel fully supports President Trump's bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran," Netanyahu said in a televised address, referring to the multinational accord with his country's main enemy.

Netanyahu, speaking shortly after Trump's announcement, said leaving the current deal in place was "a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world".

"This is why Israel thinks that President Trump did an historic move."

Netanyahu on April 30 unveiled tens of thousands of intelligence documents in another televised address that he said showed Iran's secret nuclear weapons ambitions.

Trump referred to the intelligence trove in his speech announcing the withdrawal.

Proponents of the nuclear deal argued the trove of documents Israel says it obtained from Tehran shed little new light on Iran's nuclear programme and, in fact, made the case for why the accord is important.

Netanyahu argues the documents show the deal was built on a lie -- Iran denied having pursued nuclear weapons -- and demonstrate that Tehran has a secret atomic weapons programme ready to activate at any time.

Trump and his allies in the Middle East, particularly Israel, argue the agreement was too weak and needed to be replaced with a more permanent arrangement, supplemented by controls on Iran's missile programme.

They also say the lifting of sanctions against Iran under the deal had increased its ability to finance proxy militants and other forms of aggression.

- 'Unlock and ready shelters' -

Shortly before Trump's announcement, Israel's military issued the notice regarding Iranian forces in Syria.

"Following the identification of irregular activity of Iranian forces in Syria, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) has decided to change the civilian protection instructions in the Golan Heights and instructs local authorities to unlock and ready shelters in the area," the army said in a statement.

"Additionally, defence systems have been deployed and IDF troops are on high alert for an attack."

Israel has pledged not to allow Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran is backing President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

It has been accused of carrying out deadly strikes on bases in Syria out of which Iranian forces operate, raising fears in Israel that Iran could seek to retaliate.

Netanyahu is due to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday.

Russia is also backing Assad in the Syrian civil war, but has established a hotline with Israel to avoid accidental clashes in the country.

Netanyahu and Putin have met and spoken by phone numerous times in recent months.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

The two countries remain technically at war.