Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continued to go head-to-head with the US over
a possible Iran deal, telling the Knesset Wednesday that it is wrong to say
there are only two possibilities regarding Iran: a deal or military
“There are not just two possibilities on the Iranian issue: A bad
deal – or war,” he said.
“This is incorrect. There is a third possibility
– and that is continuing the pressure of sanctions. I would even say that a bad
deal is liable to lead to the second, undesired, result.”
been loudly raising the alarm over a potential deal between the world powers and
Iran for a week, but Wednesday’s remarks appeared to be a direct response to
comments made a day earlier by White House spokesman Jay Carney and State
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“The consequences of not moving forward
with the diplomatic path is potentially aggression, potentially conflict,
potentially war,” Psaki said to reporters.
US Secretary of State John
Kerry went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon to deliver just that message
to a powerful and, thus far, skeptical group of senators prepared to move
forward should Iran insist on continuing uranium enrichment.
committed to conveying to them what the consequences are – why this is the right
legislative strategy,” Psaki said.
Carney, slamming Congressional efforts
to clamp tougher sanctions on Iran, said, “It is important to understand that if
pursuing a resolution diplomatically is disallowed or ruled out, what options,
then, do we and our allies have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear
weapon?” His comments came as the US administration was lobbying intensively
against Senate voting for tougher sanctions on Iran.
“The American people
do not want a march to war,” Carney said.
After disputing this
characterization of the situation, Netanyahu added in his Knesset speech, “There
is no reason to submit to Iranian diktat; neither is there any reason to be
hasty. Iran is under very harsh economic pressure and the advantage is with
those applying the pressure. It is possible to achieve a good deal to dismantle
Iran’s military nuclear capability.
This cannot be achieved by the
proposal now being discussed in Geneva.”
While Netanyahu and Israeli
government officials have come under criticism from some in Washington –
including Kerry – for opposing the deal even without knowing all the details,
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel was “very well informed and
knows exactly what we are speaking about.”
Steinitz, speaking to the
Jerusalem Press Club, said that not only did Israel have a “very open dialogue
and contacts with almost all the participants to the Geneva talks, including the
Americans,” but that it also has “quite good intelligence coverage of the
“We know the details,” he said. “I’m not confident that
everybody, including the participating countries, know the details like us to
such a degree.”
One of the disputes that has emerged between the US and
Israel has to do with the sanctions relief, with the US saying that what has
been offered does not touch the overall sanctions architecture and is “modest
and reversible,” while Israel counters that not only is the relief significant,
but once sanctions are relieved, it will be extremely difficult to get them back
According to Steinitz, if the sanctions were fully implemented
in 2014, they would cost the Iranians
some $100 billion, a significant chunk of
the country’s annual $400- 450b. GDP.
“The sanctions relief will directly
reduce $15-$20b. out of this amount,” he said. “This will be a contribution to
the Iranian GDP.”
In addition, he said, once there is sanctions relief it
will be difficult to keep up the same level of sanctions enforcement around the
world. Steinitz estimated that “the damage to the overall sanctions will be
something between $20b. to even $40b., or something between 20 percent to 40
percent of the sanctions.”
But Psaki directly criticized Steinitz’s
“I did see those reports,” she said. “That number, I can assure
you, is inaccurate, exaggerated, and not based in reality.
safely assume they’re lower,” she added.
US President Barack Obama called
French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday to discuss the deal, which
Fabius had criticized in Geneva as a “sucker’s deal.”
“The United States
and France are in full agreement regarding the P5+1’s unified proposal to Iran
and the approach to negotiations,” the White House said in a statement after the
call, calling the proposed interim deal “a sound step
Meanwhile, France’s ambassador to Israel, Patrick Maisonnave,
said Wednesday that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will be
accompanying Hollande on his trip to Israel next week, was responsible for the
world powers not signing an agreement with Iran in Geneva on Saturday
Maisonnave, in a briefing with reporters, said that while Paris
and Washington did not differ on the goal of keeping Iran from nuclear weapons,
France sought guarantees to ensure this did not happen.
guarantees were that Iran would not pursue a plutonium track to an atom bomb by
developing its heavy water reactor at Arak and would not increase its stockpile
of enriched uranium.
In Maisonnave’s telling, Kerry adopted the French
positions and afterward they became the positions accepted by the P5+1, which in
addition to the US and France also includes Russia, China, Britain and
Senior US officials have disputed this, saying that not only the
French, but other members of the P5+1 also sought “clarifying amendments” from
The ambassador said that France has stood strongly beside
Israel on the Iranian issue and on security matters, and he estimated that after
the events over the weekend in Geneva, Israeli would show its appreciation
during Hollande’s upcoming visit.