A bad deal is worse than no deal, if it leaves Iran with the capacity to produce
nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned US Secretary of State
John Kerry before the two met in Rome on Wednesday.
“I think a partial
deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal,” Netanyahu
Their conversation was expected to focus in part on a perceived
strategic difference between them with regard to disarming Iran’s nuclear
weapons program. The meeting lasted for slightly over seven hours and ended
close to press time. Their long meeting also dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations and other regional issues.
Israel believes that the
international community must continue to pressure Iran economically until it
dismantles its nuclear weapons facilities and removes enriched uranium from the
country. It fears that the US and other world powers would ease financial
pressure against Iran in exchange for an agreement with Tehran in which it would
curb but not halt its program.
Kerry tried to reassure Netanyahu that the
US would not prematurely remove sanctions.
“We have made clear and we are
adamant that words are no substitute for actions.
We will need to know
that actions are being taken which make it crystal clear, undeniably clear,
fail-safe to the world, that whatever program is pursued is indeed a peaceful
program,” Kerry said.
It is vital, he said, for Iran to live up to the
standards of other countries that have peaceful nuclear energy
He acknowledged that both he and US President Barack Obama have
said that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
But, he said, “if this can
be solved satisfactorily, diplomatically, it is clearly better for everyone. And
we are looking for an opportunity to be able to do that.”
clarified that it’s not enough that Iran take some action.
“Iran must not
have a nuclear weapons capability, which means that they shouldn’t have
centrifuges or enrichment,” Netanyahu said.
“They shouldn’t have a
plutonium heavy-water plant, which is used only for nuclear weapons. They should
get rid of the advanced fissile material and they shouldn’t have underground
nuclear facilities, underground for one reason – for military purposes,” he
Netanyahu urged Kerry to apply to Iran the principles he had used
with regard to Syrian chemical weapons. The US should refuse to accept a partial
deal with Iran, the way it did with Syria, Netanyahu said.
Israel and the
US both want a peaceful end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Netanyahu said,
adding that the best way to achieve that goal was with continued financial
“I think it’ll be a tragic mistake to stop right before that
goal is realized. And I look forward to discussing this issue with you,”
Netanyahu remarked that he and Kerry spoke almost every
other day about Iran and the renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace
As they spoke in Rome, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz was
in Washington to hold a strategic dialogue with US officials on regional issues,
Israel has been actively putting out a message on Iran in
advance of the six party talks on a diplomatic agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear
weapons program, which are scheduled for next week in Geneva. Initial talks
between Iran and the six parties — the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and
the United Kingdom, were held last week in Geneva as well.
on Wednesday, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the US
has made it clear to the Iranians that “progress needs to happen quickly” after
the next round of talks on November 7-8 in Geneva.
Harf said the Obama
administration was “not naive” about the hurdle they faced, but she declined to
comment on how long the US would give the negotiations process a
“I’m not going to get into a timing game here,” Harf
Asked about an upcoming bill in the Senate reinforcing sanctions
against Iran’s oil sector, Harf said that the existing sanctions regimen had
brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.
The next round
of talks will be preceded by an “experts meeting” with scientists as well as
nuclear and sanctions specialists.
“It’s an important meeting,” Harf
said. “Obviously it has to happen fairly soon.”
Speaking before the
Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Jerusalem on Wednesday,
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Iran’s goal in the current round of
diplomacy with the international community is to hold on to its ability to
independently enrich uranium, and that such an outcome is unacceptable to
“They’re striving to keep their ability to independently enrich
uranium; this is unacceptable from our perspective, as this is the way to
mislead and hoodwink [the international community], as they’ve done in the
past,” Ya’alon said.
Israel’s position is that an easing of sanctions
must happen only if it follows a clear sign of Iranian willingness to give up on
independent enrichment, do away with its plutonium program and remove the
enriched uranium already in Iran’s possession, the defense minister
“We’re trying to have an influence through open channels, not only
with the Americans, but also with other members of the P5+1 members, so that
there really will be an efficient utilization of economic sanctions, to really
bring the Iranian regime to decide between having a bomb or the survival of the
regime,” Ya’alon said.
Should the diplomatic and economic measures fail,
Israel must be ready to defend itself, by itself, he added.
threat remains the number one strategic challenge facing Israel today, Ya’alon
He reiterated his concern that, following the renewal of
diplomacy with Iran, the international community may “be tempted to be impressed
by the Iranian charm offensive and give in to the regime. We’ve learned in the
past how this regime knows how to cheat, to dupe and mislead the West, despite
decisions by the Security Council under the supervision of the
Israel’s position on this issue is “very clear,” and “has been
made clear to our friends as well: What we’re seeing at the moment from Iran,
including the political change and change in its willingness to negotiate with
the US, is a significant change that stems from efficient economic pressure
against the Iranian regime,” Ya’alon said.
The change came from Iran’s
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “who actually takes the decisions,” and
who concluded that in order to survive, he must talk to the
Khamenei has been forced to make a few concessions in his
nuclear program, but the Iranian intention is not to give up on the nuclear
option, Ya’alon continued.
Addressing Syria, Ya’alon said that as of now,
the Assad regime is meeting its commitment to disband its chemical weapons
program, but he cautioned that the “test will be in the end result. Will he try
to hide [chemical arms], or will he try to hide some sort of chemical capability
that will remain in his hands? Time will tell.”
Israel is monitoring this
issue and maintaining its redlines on Syria, which forbids the transfer of
advanced arms from Syria to Hezbollah and the transfer of chemical weapons.
There has been no attempt to date to move chemical weapons to Hezbollah, Ya’alon
The Syrian civil war continues to rage, though weekly casualty
rates have dropped from 1,000 war deaths to 600, he said, briefing the
“I estimate that there will not be a political solution in
Syria,” he said.