Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Tuesday that Israel will not be bound by the Iran nuclear accord being negotiated in Lausanne, and “will do everything to defend our security and our future.”
Netanyahu, speaking at the ceremonial opening of the 20th Knesset just hours before the Western powers’ self-imposed deadline for reaching a framework deal with Tehran, said that Israel was “not burying its head in the sand.”
“The biggest threat to our security and future was and remains Iran’s attempt to arm with nuclear weapons,” he said.
“The agreement being put together at Lausanne is paving the way for that result.”
Netanyahu said that “apparently” the agreement will “leave in Iran’s hands underground facilities, the [heavy-water] reactor at Arak, advanced centrifuges.
All those things that only a few months ago we were told, rightfully so, were not vital to a peaceful nuclear program.”
It was US President Barack Obama who said that each of those elements was not needed for a peaceful program. Obama, during a question-and answer session at the Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution in Washington in December 2013, said the following: “In terms of specifics, we know that they [the Iranians] don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.
“They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program,” Obama said at the time.
The prime minister chose his words carefully, saying these elements would “apparently” be in the agreement, since the details of the deal are still being worked out, and have not been released.
“The breakout time to achieve fissile material for nuclear bombs will not be years, as was said at the beginning,” Netanyahu said during his Knesset comments.
“Our assessment is that it has been reduced to a year, and possibly much less time than that.”
In addition, he said, Iran continues to manufacture ballistic missiles, develop advanced centrifuges, stubbornly refuse to reveal its actions to develop nuclear arms to the IAEA, and is engaged in a “campaign of occupation and terrorism” that reaches “from the Golan to Yemen, from Iraq to Gaza, and many, many additional places.”
Israel’s concerns are also held by many other countries in the region, Netanyahu said.
“They understand the Iranian threat, and see eye-to-eye with us regarding additional threats from Islamic extremists,” he said. This common ground, he said, “creates certain opportunities,” adding that he hoped that it would “help us move forward to peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors.”
The prime minister did not elaborate, but said, “I repeat and say, Israel’s hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors interested in peace.”
Before criticizing the US-led talks in Lausanne, Netanyahu saluted the US-Israel alliance, saying it is a basic component of Israel’s national security.
“That alliance will remain firm, despite disagreements, because it is based on common values and deep friendship,” he said. “But even among friends, the closest of friends, even among the closest families, they don’t always agree on everything.
And when we are talking about an existential threat, Israel must stand firmly on its interests.”
Iran is expected to be a central focus during Netanyahu’s scheduled meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday with visiting House Speaker John Boehner.
The disagreements with the US that Netanyahu referred to in his Knesset remarks were amplified in January, when the day after Obama delivered his State of the Union address vowing to veto possible congressional legislation calling for stepping up Iran sanctions, the Republican Boehner – without the White House’s knowledge – invited Netanyahu to speak in Congress against an Iran agreement.
Boehner is leading a Republican congressional delegation that has already visited Iraq and Jordan. He said in a CNN interview on Sunday that the visit has been in the works for months.
Boehner slammed the White House’s treatment of Netanyahu during that interview, calling it “reprehensible.”
“I think that the pressure[s] that they have put on him [Netanyahu] over the last four or five years have, frankly, pushed him to the point where he had to speak up,” he said. “I don’t blame him at all for speaking up.”
Among the other representatives in the delegation is Rep.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.
This delegation comes fast on the heels of a Republican senatorial delegation, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that was here over the weekend.