NEW YORK - Major US Jewish organizations hailed Israel’s security services on Monday following a dramatic speech delivered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who revealed that Israel was in possession of thousands of documents proving Iran had lied about its development of a secret nuclear program.
Israel claims proof Iran "lied" about past nuclear program, April 30, 2018 (Reuters
Along with most of Washington, the announcement stunned major American Jewish groups across the country, who heaped praise on Jerusalem’s ability to acquire such sensitive information.
“Netanyahu’s presentation demonstrates the incredible Israeli intelligence capabilities, which prove that the Iranian aspirations for nuclear abilities are still in the works, including funding,” Avital Leibovich, the director of the American Jewish Committee in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post via email.
While nearly all condemned Iran for allegedly violating the terms of the nuclear deal, most stopped short of calling for a complete withdrawal from it, insisting instead that world powers reform the parameters of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“Despite denials, the intent and execution by the Islamic Republic leadership toward nuclear weapons capability has long been clear,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.
“The international community must be steadfast in ensuring that Iran – today and tomorrow – be prevented from achieving nuclear weapons capability which would only embolden its already aggressive and dangerous policies. These revelations do highlight the need for the international community to continue monitoring Iran for illicit activities and ensure that Iran be held accountable for any attempt to engage in nuclear-related activities both under the JCPOA and beyond,” the statement added.
StandWithUs, the Israel education organization, told the Post that the Israeli government’s findings “should give world leaders pause to reflect on the inadequacies of the JCPOA, which only delays Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon using knowledge and infrastructure that are already at its fingertips.”
“We hope the international community will come together to fix the deal, for the sake of all people in the Middle East and beyond,” the organization said.
Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Danny Danon said that the evidence presented by the prime minister on Monday means that the West must now institute dramatic reforms concerning the nuclear agreement or set on a new course in dealing with the Islamic Republic.
“Israel has proven without a doubt that Iran has lied repeatedly over the years about its nuclear program. The Iranian regime cannot be trusted. We once again call on the international community to join the path the US has charted and demand the necessary changes to the failed JCPOA or exit it completely,” Danon said.
Not everyone was so optimistic regarding fixes to the JCPOA.
The notable exception came from Mort Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, who deviated from the majority of his colleagues, telling the Post that it was time to kill the JCPOA and take a more aggressive posture towards the Islamic Republic.
“This proves conclusively that [former US president Barack) Obama and Democrats and others supporting the Iran deal were dangerously wrong while [Netanyahu]... and others were painfully correct,” said Klein.
The revelation made on Monday “now obligates the US and Europe to tear up the worthless/dangerous Iran deal and make clear to Iran that if they don’t voluntarily stop their nuclear and ICBM programs, the West will do whatever it takes to end these frightening projects that threaten the West and Israel and some Arab nations as well,” he added.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said that despite Jerusalem’s ominous findings, the new development offered an opportunity for Israel to forge closer security ties with its Arab neighbors in beating back the threat Iran poses to the region.
“Netanyahu has presented incontrovertible proof of the Iran nuclear crisis which is a threat facing both Israel and the Gulf. During my many conversations with Gulf leaders, their concern about Iran is predominant in our discussions. Ultimately, the threat of Iran is what will bring the Gulf states and Israel closer together as they share this common threat,” Schneier told the Post
Dovish organizations like Americans for Peace Now, on the other hand, called for restraint and for the West to engage in a diplomatic process involving the International Atomic Energy Agency in order to verify the Israeli government’s claims.
“The International Atomic Energy Agency and national security experts from a number of countries – including the United States and Israel – have recently indicated that Iran is abiding by the terms of the agreement,” a statement from the group reads. “If Prime Minister Netanyahu possesses evidence to the contrary, proving that Iran is violating the agreement, it is incumbent upon him to share this information with the IAEA. The IAEA can then use recourse provided by the JCPOA to conduct additional inspections. If it emerges that Iran is indeed violating its obligations, sanctions waived by the P5+1 can be snapped back quickly.”
Two US officials with direct knowledge of Israel’s intelligence assessment later told NBC News that there was no evidence that Iran was cheating on the agreement.
Following the news from Tel Aviv, US President Donald Trump, who some believe is strategically coordinating with Israel ahead of an expected withdrawal from the international agreement in the coming weeks, said on Monday he would be open to negotiating a new nuclear accord with Iran.
The president acknowledged growing expectations that he will pull out of the accord by May 12 – a deadline he has set upon Britain, France and Germany to come up with “substantial” fixes to some of the agreement’s most controversial provisions. China and Russia are also parties to the agreement.
The JCPOA puts caps on Tehran’s enrichment of uranium that phase out between 10 and 15 years. As those “sunset clauses” are reached, Iran will be allowed to grow the size and efficiency of its program – installing advanced models of uranium-enriching centrifuges in place of decades-old technology, in greater numbers and at more facilities.
That will shrink the “breakout time” Iran would need to develop fissile material for nuclear bombs, should it make the political decision to proceed.
Trump wants a deal that will grant UN inspectors snap access to Iran’s military facilities, where much of their past nuclear weapons work took place; an end to their program on ballistic missiles, designed to deliver nuclear warheads; a permanent extension of the “sunset clauses”; and commitments from world powers to thwart Iran’s military ambitions across the Middle East.
Michael Wilner contributed to this report.