US challenges Israel to sharpen alternative path on Iranian nuclear negotiations

Insisting Tehran change "everything under the sun" not realistic way to close a deal, State Department says.

March 5, 2015 00:14
2 minute read.
Obama Netanyahu

Obama and Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to Congress on a holistic approach in talks with Iran over its aggressive behavior is “not in any way a realistic alternative,” the Obama administration said on Wednesday.

Iran changing “everything under the sun in an ideal world” cannot be the negotiating position of the United States, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, questioned by The Jerusalem Post.

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Harf was responding to the prime minister’s assertion to the contrary once he landed back in Israel. His address on Tuesday was his third to a joint meeting of the US legislature.

“After my short visit to the United States, I return to Israel knowing that many around the world heard what Israel has to say about the impending deal with Iran,” he said in a statement messaged to reporters who were traveling on his airplane.

“In my speech before the Congress, I presented a practical alternative, which would impose tougher restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, extending Iran’s breakout time by years,” he said.

In the speech, Netanyahu said world powers should not treat Iran “like a normal country” until it “acts like a normal country,” listing its support for terrorism around the world, its aggression against its neighbors and its many calls for Israel’s annihilation.

But “that’s a wholly unrealistic and, frankly, simplistic argument,” Harf said.

While Netanyahu challenged the US to extend the “breakout” time Iran would require to acquire enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, he did not specify how much time would satisfy his government.

“I would love for him to [do so],” Harf said.

She also said specific, “point-by-point” concerns have been addressed in a classified setting.

In his statement, Netanyahu said that he heard “encouraging responses from both Democrats and Republicans. They understood that the current proposal would lead to a bad deal and that the alternative is a better deal.”

Before leaving Washington on Tuesday afternoon, and immediately after his address to Congress, the prime minister held a meeting with a group of Senate leaders, including some Democrats – such as Illinois’s Richard Durbin and California’s Dianne Feinstein – who were very critical of his decision to address Congress.

For instance, Feinstein took strong issue with Netanyahu saying before heading for the US that he felt like an emissary for the Jewish people. She said that was a “rather arrogant statement.”

Netanyahu thanked both sides of the aisle for giving him the opportunity to articulate Israel’s concern about what may be “the most important issues of our days.”

He said that he was very moved by the attention and the response to his speech from members of both parties, and that it was clear to him and everyone in the hall that there is strong bipartisan support for Israel.

Netanyahu said that it is likely that Congress will influence, and perhaps determine, the fate of the agreement with Iran.

Meanwhile, in the Twitter- sphere, Netanyahu’s speech with the hashtag #Netanyahu- Speech generated 6,800 tweets a minute toward the end of the 45-minute address. When he entered the House of Representatives to begin speaking, the same hashtag generated some 1,700 tweets a minute.

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