Israel’s commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is more valid today than ever, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday as the world powers and Iran teetered on the verge of signing an accord Jerusalem believes ultimately will pave Iran’s path to nuclear arms.
Netanyahu’s comments at a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset were a hint that, despite the impending accord in Vienna, Israel was still not ruling out military action to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear arms.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, speaking at a conference in Jerusalem, also indicated that a military option was not off the table, saying that even though the accord “is a historic mistake” that will render Iran a “legitimate nuclear threshold country,” Israel “will continue to defend ourselves on our own.”
Most analysts believe, however, that a preemptive strike against Iran will be even less likely once an accord regulating Iran’s nuclear program for at least the next decade is reached between Tehran and the P5+1, which consists of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
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The prime minister also took US President Barack Obama to task, though he did not mention him by name.
“Even over the weekend, as Iran continued to receive more and more concessions at the negotiating table, Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani led a march of hatred in the streets of Tehran in which the masses cried, ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’” he said.
“If the concessions continued even after these unequivocal calls for the destruction of those conducting the negotiations, it seems that there are those who are ready to make an agreement at any price – and this bad agreement is unavoidable.”
In a signal to Israel’s supporters in the US Congress, which will have 60 days to review and vote on the agreement once it is announced, Netanyahu called on “all those who care about Israel’s security” to unite behind the commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu deflected criticism that his efforts to prevent an Iranian deal have been a colossal failure, saying: “We never committed ourselves to preventing an agreement, certainly not one that the major powers are ready to sign at any price.”
What the government did commit itself to, he said, was to “prevent Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons – and, indeed, were it not for our efforts over the years, Iran would already be able to develop atomic bombs.”
Jerusalem, meanwhile, was carefully monitoring the developments in Vienna on Monday, but with a sense that the accord is a foregone conclusion.
Once a deal is announced, one government official said, Israel will study the document – which is expected to exceed 100 pages – and then clearly state its position.
“We won’t be shy,” the official said. “If this deal becomes a reality, we will have a major effort to make our case.”
The official said a government task force has been set up to coordinate efforts to present Israel’s arguments, adding that Israel’s case will not be directed solely at US legislators, but also at the wider US public so it can influence the lawmakers.
“In all democracies, the official said, “public opinion is crucial.”