(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The nuclear deal that the world’s leading countries reached with Iran on Tuesday will likely lead to the Islamic Republic becoming a nuclear power, but Israel can live with a nuclear Iran, because Israel is by far the strongest country in the region. So said former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak in an interview with Channel 2 Tuesday night.
Barak was just one of many Israeli politicians across the political spectrum who slammed the deal; MKs from the Joint List were the only ones who praised it.
“The agreement gives legitimacy to Iran to become a nuclear threshold state,” Barak said. “It allows [the Iranians] to subsidize terror and removes them from the noose of sanctions. It is fair to say that it will allow Iran to follow North Korea to become a nuclear power.”
However, while he said it was legitimate for Israeli politicians to go to the US to explain why the deal was problematic for Israel, he cautioned against interfering in American politics and said positive relations with the White House must be restored. He added that there was room to take advantage of the nuclear deal to set a new regional security order.
“We need to define, together with America, what a smoking gun is, and what is an Iranian violation,” he said. “You don’t need to be a security expert to understand that the deal changes the security situation. You need the US to reevaluate the situation and maintain and develop the military option.”
Meanwhile, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) announced that he would be leaving for the US in the coming days to “demand a dramatic package of security measures for Israel.”
Voicing his disappointment over the deal at a Knesset press conference, Herzog said he had been in talks with AIPAC and other bodies in the US and that he intended to fly there as soon as possible to “clarify the nature of the risks stemming from the agreement [as pertains] to Israel and the rest of the region.”
“With regard to security, I am more extreme than [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Herzog said. “In light of the situation, we must do everything within our power to improve our security. I have full confidence in the power of the State of Israel, and the unity and the power of our society to face and overcome any challenge and risks that lie in its path. Even if there are internal disputes, Israel knows how to unite and fight together for security.”
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Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid intends to lobby congressmen to vote against the deal, which he said made Tuesday “a bad day for the Jewish people.”
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Education Minister Naftali Bennett went further, declaring that “this day will be remembered as a black day in the history of the free world.” He spoke out against the deal on CNN, immediately after the network broadcast speeches by the American and Iranian presidents praising the deal.
“The history books have been rewritten again today, and this period will be deemed particularly grave and dangerous,” Bennett said. “Western citizens who get up for another day at work or school are not aware of the fact that about half a trillion dollars has been transferred to the hands of a terrorist superpower, the most dangerous country in the world, which has promised the destruction of nations and peoples. Today it may be us, tomorrow it may reach every country in the form of suitcase bombs in London or New York. Israel has done everything possible to warn of danger, and in the end it will follow its own interests and will do whatever it takes to defend itself.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman warned that “the agreement with Iran will be remembered in history the same way as the Munich Agreement that led to World War II and the agreement with North Korea that led to its nuclearization.”
Calling the deal “a total surrender to terror and unbridled violence in the international arena,” he stressed that Israel “needs to ensure at all times and in all circumstances that it will defend itself. Today, Israel needs to remember [the Talmudic axiom]: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’” Meanwhile, the Likud criticized opposition lawmakers for assailing Netanyahu’s policies in light of the nuclear agreement.
“Instead of presenting a unified front on a fateful issue for Israel, on which there is no Right or Left, and on which everyone knows Israel’s security is at stake, some politicians are engaging in narrow political prattle at the expense of the interests of Israel,” the party said in a statement. “The prime minister never promised that there would not be a deal, only that Iran would not obtain nuclear weapons, and that promise still holds, today more than ever.”
The Joint List, however, welcomed the nuclear deal, saying in a statement that it was “a victory for the will of the Iranian people and its struggle to remove the siege and sanctions.” It added that Israel should now dismantle its own purported nuclear weapons program.
Israel’s objections to the deal are based on its aim “to remain the only country with nuclear power in the region and to distract the international community from the occupation, which is the source of tension, war and instability in the Middle East,” said the predominantly Arab party.
“We have to keep the region free from nuclear weapons,” it added.
The list’s Arab nationalist Balad party and Islamic Movement-affiliated United Arab List party signed off on the statement, even though their ideologies seem to dovetail with those of the larger Islamic and Sunni world – which opposes Shi’ite Iran’s regional ambitions and is likely to be critical of the deal.