Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued on Wednesday to rail against the nuclear deal being negotiated in Lausanne, saying it is outrageous that the world negotiates with Tehran as one of its military leaders says Israel’s destruction is “nonnegotiable.”
He was careful, however, not to slam the talks publicly while standing alongside US House Speaker John Boehner, the Republican from Ohio who is a fierce political opponent of President Barack Obama, and who is very skeptical of the possibility of Iran honoring a deal.
Boehner angered the White House when in January he invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress against the Iran deal, and Netanyahu infuriated it further by accepting the invitation and not informing the White House of it in advance.
Netanyahu’s statement against the Iran deal was made in front of the cameras about an hour before he met with Boehner and the Republican congressional delegation he headed.
“Yesterday an Iranian general brazenly declared, and I quote: ‘Israel’s destruction is nonnegotiable,’ but evidently giving Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable,” the prime minister said. “This is unconscionable.”
Israel Radio on Tuesday quoted Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Basij (volunteer) militia, as saying on the occasion of Islamic Republic Day in Tehran that “wiping Israel off the map is not up for negotiation.”
Iran’s Fars News Agency reported on Naqdi’s speech but left out, in its English-language story, any reference to Israel, instead highlighting threats he made toward the Saudis for their intervention against the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Netanyahu said that the concessions offered to Iran in the talks in Switzerland “would ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world.”
The international community needed to insist on a better deal that would significantly roll back the Islamic Republic’s nuclear infrastructure, he said.
Then, picking up on a theme that he introduced during his speech to Congress on March 3, Netanyahu said that a better deal “would link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to a change in Iran’s behavior.”
As the talks continue, he said, “Iran is accelerating its campaign of terror, subjugation and conquest throughout the region, most recently in Yemen.”
Tehran, the prime minister said, “must stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world and stop its threats to annihilate Israel. That should be nonnegotiable and that’s the deal that the world powers must insist upon.”
Harking back to comments Obama made in December 2013, Netanyahu added that he agreed with those who said “that Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes doesn’t square with Iran’s insistence on keeping underground nuclear facilities, advanced centrifuges and a heavy water reactor.”
Iran’s claim of a peaceful nuclear program is also incompatible with its insistence on developing intercontinental ballistic missiles and refusal to “come clean with the IAEA on its past weaponization efforts,” the prime minister said.
Government officials said Iran was the central focus of his meeting with Boehner and the congressional delegation, as it was with another congressional delegation – this one a bipartisan group from the House Armed Services Committee – that Netanyahu met on Wednesday.
The Palestinian issue, one official said, is coming up only incidentally in recent meetings Netanyahu has held with delegations from abroad.
Just before their meeting, Boehner – who before coming to Israel visited Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan along with his delegation – said the message he heard everywhere was the same: “You can’t continue to turn your eye away from the threats that face all of us.”
Speaking after Netanyahu said his visit was a testament to the strong alliance between Israel and the US, Boehner echoed those words and – in an obvious reference to the current tension between Jerusalem and Washington – said: “While we may have political disagreements from time to time, the bonds between our two nations are strong, and they’re going to continue to be strong.”