Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to meet both French President François
Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin next week to try and “improve” the
deal the world powers are hammering out with Iran that Netanyahu adamantly
Both Russia and France are members of the P5+1 – along with the
US, China, Britain and Germany – and Netanyahu is expected to use those meetings
to lobby against signing a deal that includes sanctions relief without the
Iranians being asked to take steps to dismantle their nuclear
According to senior US officials, the deal that was discussed
over the weekend in Geneva would have Iran freeze its nuclear program for six
months, in exchange for what they describe as moderate and reversible sanctions
relief. The officials hope that a comprehensive agreement dismantling the
program could then be reached during that period.
Israel’s position, as
stated Monday by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon
at the Jewish Federations of
North America’s General Assembly, is that the sanctions should be relieved only
when the Iranians dismantle their centrifuges, “not a minute before.” If Iran is
just going to freeze its program, not dismantle it, then the sanctions should
remain in place, he said.
Netanyahu, who continued Monday with his fierce
criticism of the deal, is scheduled to meet Sunday in Jerusalem with Hollande
during the first day of the French president’s three day visit here – his first
since taking office. France was instrumental in preventing a deal from being
signed Saturday night, believing it did not go far enough to neutralize the
heavy-water reactor at Arak and the risk of an Iranian atom bomb.
officials have been saying for months that France has staked out the toughest
position toward Iran among the P5+1 countries.
French Foreign Minister
Laurent Fabius nonetheless expressed hope on Monday that a deal could be
reached, although he said Tehran still had to make an effort on a few
“We are not far from an agreement with the Iranians, but we are
not there yet,” he told Europe1 radio. “I am hopeful we will reach a good
We want an accord that ensures regional and international
Fabius said Iran must suspend construction of its Arak
heavy-water reactor and halt uranium enrichment to a concentration of 20 percent
to win a relaxation of the sanctions, a position long held by
Israel wants to see the uranium enrichment halted
On Wednesday, just three days after meeting Hollande,
Netanyahu is to travel to Moscow for two days and a meeting with Putin that is
to take place on the same day that negotiators are scheduled to meet again in
“Israel is united in opposition to the deal being offered to
Iran,” Netanyahu reiterated at a Likud Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset.
“We are speaking in a clear and unequivocal voice. The time that was gained over
the weekend must be utilized to achieve a much better deal.”
criticism that his lobbying campaign is too loud and open, and should be
conducted privately in a manner that does not create tension with the US,
Netanyahu said, “We will continue to say this simple truth in a clear voice
because this is what needs to be done. When it comes to things that are so
essential and fateful for the future and security of Israel, and for the peace
of the world, one must speak clearly, and we are doing so to prevent a bad
Earlier, during a meeting with visiting Belgian Foreign Minister
Didier Reynders. Netanyahu – perhaps trying to blunt the harshness of his
criticism a bit – said that “our common goal, that of the US, Europe, China and
Russia, is to prevent Iran from developing a military nuclear
He then said it was time to improve the deal, and that was
possible because Iran was on its knees economically.
Ya’alon said the
very talk of sanctions relief has improved the value of the Iranian rial, led to
gains in the Iranian stock market, and to feelers put out by Chinese businesses
eager to resume trade. Ya’alon said it will take more than six months for a
comprehensive deal to be reached on the nuclear program, and that if during that
period Iran’s economy improved, then there would be no pressure and the talks
would continue forever.
US ambassador Dan Shapiro, however, disagreed
with that assessment, saying at a different session at the JFNA GA
the US was “not going to give away that leverage [from sanctions] before we have
confidence that a comprehensive agreement can be reached.”
He said that
the sanction relief that was being discussed was “very limited, reversible and
easily controlled,” and would not touch the “main architecture of the
sanctions,” which he described as the sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial
“Our goal is clear: to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear
weapon, through diplomacy and sanctions if possible, but using other means,
including a military option, if necessary.
We will not fail to achieve
this goal,” he said.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on
he hoped an agreement would be signed within months.
“This is not
a race to complete just any agreement,” Kerry told a news conference during a
visit to the United Arab Emirates. However, he added: “Through diplomacy we have
an absolute responsibility to pursue an agreement.”
While saying that a
deal with Iran was expected within months, Kerry tried to reassure Washington’s
Arab allies and Israel that his country would not abandon them.
the podium to make his point, Kerry said US President Barack Obama had said
“that he will continue to defend his friends and allies in this region, the UAE,
Saudi Arabia, others, he will defend them against any external
“That is the promise of the United States and as I stand here as
secretary of state, as long as I’m secretary of state, that is also our policy,
my policy, representing the president of the United States in executing
Reuters contributed to this report.