Israel rejects the nuclear agreement hammered out in Vienna between the world powers and Iran and will not be bound by it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday evening after an emergency meeting of the security cabinet to discuss the accord.
The security cabinet voted unanimously to reject the deal, Netanyahu said, though he did not provide any details about what that would mean on a practical level, and officials were mum on Israel’s strategy going forward to fight the agreement.
Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama presented two starkly opposing views of the future following the announcement of the deal, with Netanyahu saying the world is a more dangerous place, and Obama saying it is safer.
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“The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday,” the prime minister told reporters before convening his security cabinet.
His comments came just a couple of hours after Obama said that the deal would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and “makes our country and the world safer and more secure.”
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The two men spoke in the afternoon. Netanyahu said that he stressed that the agreement is dangerous for two central reasons.
First, he said, it will allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons in another 10-15 years if it abides by the deal, and sooner if it breaches the accord.
Second, it will allow hundreds of billions of dollars to flow into Iran’s “terrorism and war machine” that is used against Israel and others in the region.
The White House, in its reading of the call, stressed that Obama said the agreement will not diminish the US’s concerns “regarding Iran’s support for terrorism and threats toward Israel.”
Obama said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will visit Israel next week, as a “reflection of the unprecedented level of security cooperation between the United States and Israel.” That visit, he said, will “offer a further opportunity” to continue the close security consultation between the countries “as we remain vigilant in countering the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities in the region.”
In that regard, Obama told Netanyahu that the deal would “verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, while ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward.”
But Netanyahu, as he made clear in his statement before the phone call, strongly disagreed.
“The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism,” he said. “They’ve gambled that in 10 years’ time, Iran’s terrorist regime will change, while removing any incentive for it to do so. In fact, the deal gives Iran every incentive not to change.”
Netanyahu’s comments were aimed more at the destabilizing impact of an Iran flush with “hundreds of billions of dollars” in cash following the lifting of sanctions, than at the prospect of a nuclear threat from Tehran.
“In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing,” he said. “Amazingly, this bad deal does not require Iran to cease its aggressive behavior in any way. And just last Friday, that aggression was on display for all to see.”
Netanyahu underlined that even as negotiators were hammering out the agreement, “Iran’s supposedly moderate president chose to go to a rally in Tehran and at this rally, a frenzied mob burned American and Israeli flags and chanted, ‘Death to America, Death to Israel!’” This didn’t happen four years ago, the prime minister stressed: “It happened four days ago.”
Netanyahu noted that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in March that the agreement does not limit Iran’s aggression in any way, and that “negotiations with the United States are on the nuclear issue and on nothing else.”
Khamenei repeated that sentiment three days ago, Netanyahu said, quoting Khamenei as saying that “the United States embodies global arrogance, and the battle against it will continue unabated even after the nuclear agreement is concluded.”
To further illustrate the accord’s destabilizing impact, the prime minister quoted Hassan Nasrallah, the head of “Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah,” as saying “A rich and strong Iran will be able to stand by its allies and friends in the region more than at any time in the past.”
In other words, Netanyahu said, “Iran’s support for terrorism and subversion will actually increase after the deal.”
Calling the deal a “stunning historic mistake,” Netanyahu said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was correct in saying that with the agreement “The international community is removing the sanctions and Iran is keeping its nuclear program.”
“By not dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, in a decade this deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorist regime the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs, in fact an entire nuclear arsenal with the means to deliver it,” the prime minister said.
He then warned that “Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran, because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves.”
Following the security cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said claims that the personal relationship between him and Obama had a bad influence on the agreement were “groundless.”
Earlier in the day, at the start of a meeting with visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, Netanyahu called on Israel’s leaders to put aside “petty politics” and unite around an issue fateful for the country’s future.
In an effort to stem criticism of him for failing to stop the accord, Netanyahu said his government did not commit itself to preventing the agreement, but rather “to preventing Iran from arming with nuclear weapons, and in my eyes that commitment still stands.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticized Netanyahu’s vocal opposition to the deal.
“This is a responsible deal and Israel should also take a closer look at it and not criticize the agreement in a very coarse way,” Steinmeier told German broadcaster ARD. Steinmeier said the basis for the agreement was transparency and the ability to monitor Iran’s compliance.
“In the agreement, Iran has to commit to these monitoring possibilities. And we will make sure that the monitoring possibilities are also observed after this deal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said that he hopes that what was achieved between the world powers and Iran could be replicated between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We do welcome the agreement that finally was achieved between 5+1 and Iran and we think such agreement will be able to help to stabilize our region and to focus more on the problems of the region and how to be able to solve it,” he said. “I think this takes away additional threats to the region and tries to give hope when hope is needed.”
Reuters contributed to this report.