Israel and the nuclear deal with Iran

By ILAI Z. SALTZMAN
July 14, 2015 21:04
2 minute read.
Kerry and Zarif in Vienna

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With Fellow EU, P5+1 Foreign Ministers and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Iran Nuclear Deal. (photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)

 
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The signing of a nuclear deal with Iran will further aggravate the already tense relations between Israel and the US regardless of the exact details of the agreement or the nature of the mechanisms put in place to make it work. To be more specific, this dramatic development will bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama further apart. The prime minister presented no coherent and practical alternative; he merely advocated maintaining the sanctions against Iran and dismantling its nuclear program, even by force. This “all or nothing” approach was utterly unacceptable and unfeasible from Obama’s vantage point and mutual criticism lasted until the very last minute.

The signing of the nuclear agreement will mark a new stage in Netanyahu’s anti-agreement crusade. 

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Given the fact the American Congress will now have 60 days to review and assess the signed accords before lifting the sanctions on Iran, we should expect a massive Israeli campaign against its approval. While Netanyahu will not be invited to give another anti-agreement speech on Capitol Hill, he will use every possible asset to prevent Congress from lifting the sanctions. Netanyahu’s proxies including Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and AIPAC will engage every legislator, Republican or Democrat, and will be extremely vocal in the public sphere, criticizing the agreement and the president’s handling of the negotiations.

REGARDLESS OF the outcomes of the battle in Congress, one obvious casualty will be US-Israel relations.

Israel has become a partisan political issue, dividing Congress and the Jewish community, forcing people to choose between their president and their support of Israel, as Netanyahu’s speech in Congress vividly showed. Obama will do anything in his power to prevent Congress from interfering in what he believes to be one of the most significant diplomatic achievements of his administration. The crossfire will certainly take its toll and the only question is the exact price Israel will pay.


Netanyahu’s maximalist and uncompromising approach throughout the nuclear talks left Israel marginalized and disengaged from the negotiations. In the post-deal period, the Israeli government must engage the administration in good faith and regain access to the decision-making process, in order to influence the way the agreement is enforced and Iran’s nuclear facilities are monitored.

Moreover, in the long term, Israel should seek a reversal of Iran’s destabilizing policies in the region through encouraging US-Iranian rapprochement induced by the nuclear agreement.

Recently, Netanyahu began arguing in favor of a regional solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that involves other actors such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. He should apply the same logic to resolve the Iranian challenge to Middle Eastern stability. No doubt he will find an attentive ear in the White House if he chooses to do so.

The author is a visiting assistant professor of government in the international relations program at Claremont McKenna College and a board member at Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies.

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