A congressional delegation visiting Israel has voiced strong opposition to the agreement being worked out between the US and other powers with Iran in Geneva over its nuclear program, with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) calling it “suicidal.”

In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post at a Jerusalem hotel on Friday, at the end of the delegation’s visit to Israel, Bachmann backed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s rejection of the deal, and continued sanctions against Tehran.

“I think it’s a suicidal move for the world, in particular for Israel,” Bachmann said. “We would like to encourage the prime minister to do everything he can to stand strong for Israel’s interest. We believe the sanctions are working exactly as they were intended to work. This is not the time to let up on sanctions.”

Picking up from Bachmann’s comments, Rep. Steve Scalise (RLouisiana) said this was not the time for a nuclear deal with Tehran.

“The strong sanctions that Congress has passed against Iran have been very big bipartisan votes in both the House and the Senate, and so the Congress has been on the record in a very strong way that we need to impose the toughest sanctions against Iran until they give up their attempt to develop a nuclear weapon,” Scalise told the Post. “Now that the sanctions are finally working and Iran is actually feeling the pressure, the worst mistake would be to take our foot off of the gas.

It’s actually bringing Iran to the table, in a way where they need to now start withdrawing their program.

They need to start removing centrifuges. They’ve got to recognize that they can’t get the sanctions released without giving up major concessions in return.”

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) called for even more measures to be taken against the Islamic Republic.

“The sanctions finally are working and Iran has been put in a position in which the sanctions are hurting them economically, which will cause instability in Iran. Iran is faced now with a choice of developing the economy or developing nuclear weapons,” Poe said. “If we let off on the sanctions, they will be able to develop both. Keep the heat on the sanctions; we need more sanctions, not less sanctions.”

Poe said Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was deceiving the West.

“We’re being had, the West is being had by the Iranians, and the smooth-talking Rouhani,” he said.

“We ought to know better than to try to deal with people who say one thing and continue behind everybody’s back to continue to develop a nuclear capability.”

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “was a loudmouthed screamer and advocated the destruction of the West.

Rouhani is a smooth snake-oil salesman. He believes the same thing, but he’s smoother about it.

But he cannot be trusted, in fact to me, he is more dangerous than Ahmadinejad, because he comes and puts his arm around the West and wants to talk. But his goals are exactly the same, because they’re coming from the supreme leader, whose goals have not changed, and that’s the destruction of Israel and the United States. So he should be dealt with much more carefully even than Ahmadinejad in my opinion,” Poe said.

The congressional delegation spent several days touring Israel, away from the eyes of the media, and met Netanyahu on Thursday before leaving on Saturday.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) said they fully endorsed Netanyahu’s tough position on Iran.

“When we had a meeting with the prime minister, we let him know that we stood behind him,” Aderholt said. “Israel has a lot of friends in the Congress, and the administration does not always represent the way Congress is set up. We wanted to reiterate to the prime minister and to Israel that there’s a lot of people in the United States Congress that don’t have the exact views of the administration.”

On the Palestinian issue, members of the delegation were outraged by Secretary of State John Kerry’s warning to Israel of a third intifada if the peace talks break down.

Rep. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) termed Kerry’s comments an insult to the Palestinians.

“To me, Kerry’s statement that there will be a third intifada if Israel doesn’t come to the table is just an incredibly low view of the Palestinians, and a great disrespect to them as well,” he said.

“It’s the same kind of statement that liberals make in America about certain neighborhoods, saying if they don’t get what they want, they’ll riot in the streets. It shows incredible disrespect to the Palestinians to say all that they know is violence, and so you better appease them, or you’re going to get more violence,” Lankford said.

Bachmann said she opposed Israel’s release of terrorists as part of peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

“We let the prime minister know that we stand in utter opposition to the release of terrorists. We think it’s inappropriate. With all due respect to the administration and of course to the prime minister, to release murderers, murderers of Americans as well as Israelis, is reprehensible, and you’re getting nothing in return.”

She said that when it comes to the Palestinians, bad behavior should not be rewarded.

“The world would love to see a solution to the situation, but quite honestly, I think that if there’s anything we’ve learned over the decades is that we should not be about rewarding bad behavior. What we need to do is to make sure that at every turn, Israel’s national security interests must come first,” Bachmann said.

“The Jordan Valley is extremely important. Israel has to know that they have the confidence that we aren’t going to see an outbreak in the West Bank, and that’s why there must be a military presence,” she said.

Poe supported Israel’s demand to be recognized as a Jewish state.

“The big issue is that the Palestinians and many of Israel’s neighbors will not recognize Israel’s right to exist, and until they step up to the plate and say we will recognize Israel’s right to exist, then we can start talking about the details, and land and all of the other issues. But they don’t want to talk about that, they’d rather to talk about other things. I think that has to be the starting point, where both sides will be willing to recognize the other’s right to exist. The Palestinians refuse to do that, and many of the people who support the Palestinians won’t make that statement, and there lies the problem of working out a long-term peace negotiation,” he said.

Aderholt added: “From our meeting with the prime minister, we feel that recognizing Israel’s to exist is crucially important. That was something which he reiterated and that has to be something in all the negotiations. Anybody who wants to deny Israel’s right to exist is very disconcerting to all of us and most members of Congress.

We feel very strongly about that issue.”

Summing up the delegation’s visit to Israel, Bachmann said she was pleased that they had come at the same time as Kerry.

“We are very thankful that we could be here during this critical week to deliver an alternative view from that of the administration.

That is, number one, that we stand with the Jewish people, and we don’t believe Israel should make concessions to her detriment.

We want her to know that she has a friend who will be here in good times and in bad.”

She said the delegation was leaving Israel “with a feeling of happiness and joy.

“There is tremendous reason for optimism, true optimism, because Israel is a miracle nation. I was here in 1974, worked on a kibbutz down near Beersheba, and to look at the development of Israel from 1974 until today is nothing short of miracle. To see the level of stability Israel has while being under virtual attack the entire time that they had to grow is another testament to the Jewish state.

“But what happened with P5+1 is a major line of demarcation, and that’s why I think it’s very crucial that all of us were here this week at the same time that Secretary Kerry was in Israel. We want the Jewish people of Israel and the Palestinian people to understand that the view that was brought to bear by the United States administration does not necessarily reflect the will of the American people, nor of the people’s representatives in Congress. It certainly does not represent our view. We believe that it will bring far greater instability if the recommendations of the P5+1 were in fact to be enacted,” Bachmann said.

Asked if they supported the release of Jonathan Pollard, who is starting his 29th year in a US jail for spying for Israel, members of the delegation nodded.

“I believe Pollard should be pardoned, I believe he should be freed,” said Bachmann.

“I think he should have been released a long time ago,” added Poe.” I don’t know whether he will be or not, but that’s an issue that people who believe in freedom should keep elevating to the top, so that we can be vocal about that issue.”

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