Jerusalem will use the next three months until the June 30 Iranian nuclear deal deadline to argue forcefully against many of its provisions, specifically that it allows Iran’s massive nuclear infrastructure to remain in place, according to a a senior government official.
The deal, whose parameters were agreed upon Thursday in Lausanne after marathon negotiations, relies heavily on an International Atomic Energy Agency inspection regime. But, the official said, Israel will argue that “you can’t inspect what you don’t know,” and that relying on inspectors in an authoritarian regime is very problematic.
Israel will demand, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday following a two-hour emergency meeting of the security cabinet to discuss the deal, that any final nuclear accord with Iran must include a clear and unambiguous recognition by Tehran of Israel’s right to exist.
This was the first time Netanyahu has called for an explicit recognition of Israel by Iran, and according to government officials is an outgrowth of what he argued in US Congress last month: If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, it had to act like a normal country.
Threatening to wipe another country off the map, as Iran has done repeatedly, is not the behavior of a normal country, one official said.
Jerusalem is expected to make the case over the next three months against the sanctions relief Iran is to be given under the deal, saying that it will allow Iran to become more affluent very quickly, giving it more resources to spend on spreading terrorism and instability in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.
Furthermore, the Israeli officials said that based on their understandings of the agreement, the lifting of sanctions – the timing of which is expected to continue being a sticking point until a final deal is signed – will begin with the removal first of the stiff sanctions applied by Congress in 2012 that hit the Iranians the hardest.
The “softer” sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council are the ones to be lifted later, the official said.
Israel is expected to continue to argue that the agreement will inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race among other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.
The security cabinet meeting on Friday followed an hour-long conversation late Thursday night between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama following the president’s Rose Garden announcement of the deal, which he said would cut off all pathways Iran could take toward developing a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu, in his conversation, disagreed, expressing his strong opposition to the deal that he said threatens Israel’s survival.
“Such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it,” he told Obama, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Following the security cabinet meeting, attended by six of his senior ministers, Netanyahu said the forum was strongly opposing the proposed deal.
The ministers who attended the meeting were Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is not a full member, but took part in the meeting because he has been the government’s point-man the Iranian issue.
“Iran is a regime that openly calls for Israel’s destruction and openly and actively works toward that end,” Netanyahu said after the meeting. “Just two days ago, in the midst of the negotiations in Lausanne, the commander of the Basij security forces in Iran said this: ‘The destruction of Israel is non-negotiable.’ Well, I want to make clear to all. The survival of Israel is non-negotiable.”
While in recent days senior Israeli officials have spoken openly about possible Israeli military action if need be to prevent Iran from getting a bomb, Netanyahu made no such threat in his statement.
The prime minister said the deal “would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop R&D on Iran’s advanced centrifuges.
On the contrary, the deal would legitimize Iran’s illegal nuclear program.
It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place.”
Furthermore, he said the deal “removes the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, enabling Iran to have a massive enrichment capacity that it could use to produce many nuclear bombs within a matter of months.”
Rejecting arguments made by Obama that the alternative to the deal is war, Netanyahu said there is another alternative: Standing firm, increasing the pressure on Iran until a good deal is achieved.
While Jerusalem is gearing up to argue against the deal, Obama – during his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday – began selling it to the American people and their lawmakers.
The New York Times on Saturday quoted Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is strongly opposed to the deal, as saying Obama’s efforts to market the deal will be the world’s “best-funded, most relentless sales job that we’ve ever seen.
“If there’s one thing this White House can do, they know how to run a political campaign, and they are going to need it here,” he was quoted as saying.
In his radio address, Obama said that if the understanding with Iran was fully implemented, it would prevent Iran from “obtaining a nuclear weapon and make our country, our allies, and our world safer.”
He said the deal denies Iran both a plutonium or enriched uranium path to a bomb, and ensures that inspectors will have unprecedented access to the country’s nuclear facilities.
“If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it,” he said. “So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification.”
He said that the sanctions could be “snapped back into place” if Iran violated the deal, and that American sanctions on the Islamic Republic for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses and ballistic missile program will remain in place.
Furthermore, he said that more details needed to be finalized over the next three months, “and if there is backsliding, there will be no deal.”