WASHINGTON – The Iran nuclear deal “put us all on cruise control heading over a cliff,” US Ambassador Ron Dermer said Sunday, a day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to hear from US President Donald Trump about his efforts to fix the deal.
Dermer, speaking at the opening session of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference, said the principle problem with the deal is that the restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear program are automatically removed in between eight to 13 years.
“So Iran does not need to change its behavior. All it has to do is wait for the calendar to move,” he said.
Even until the “sunset clauses” in the agreement kick in, he added, Iran is still – even now – engaging in R&D for the development of more advanced centrifuges.
A number of steps need to be taken to fix the deal, Dermer said. The first is to remove the sunset clauses, the second is to place restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile development, and the third is to deal with the inspections part of the agreement. Under the agreement, inspectors are not allowed at military installations.
“Where do you think they are going to do the weaponization work?” Dermer asked.
But the most important thing Trump needs to do to get the changes he wants, Dermer said, “is for everyone else to believe that the president is actually prepared to walk away if he doesn’t get those changes. And I have no doubt whatsoever that this president is prepared to walk away from the deal.”
Netanyahu, who arrived in Washington on Sunday morning at the start of a five-day trip that will also take him to New York for two days, said before taking off from Israel that Iran will be a major focus of his talks, as will Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem in May.
Dermer lauded the significance of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, saying that for 2,500 years the Jews remembered the Persian king Cyrus the Great because he allowed them to return to Jerusalem and build the Second Temple.
“Now I don’t know if the Persians remember Cyrus, but the Jewish people remember Cyrus,” he said. “This decision [Trump’s] will be remembered forever. The fact that the leader of the free world, the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, becomes the first leader to recognize Jerusalem as our capital is a decision that will never be forgotten.”
Dermer said the move advances peace because if peace is ever to happen, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish people’s right to be in its historic homeland, regardless of where one says those boundaries should be.
Until now, he said, the Palestinians have not come to that recognition and engage in a constant delegitimization campaign against Israel. “And nowhere is that delegitimization stronger than when it comes to Jerusalem,” he said, saying this was the reason Yasser
Arafat told former US president Bill Clinton there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continuously refuses to acknowledge a Jewish link to the city.
“Because if they recognize this historical connection, it means that the Jewish people are in our homeland by right, not simply by might,” he said. “President Trump, in making his decision, punctured this great lie that the Jewish people are foreign colonialists in the land of Israel.”
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