Israeli ambassador to US calls Netanyahu address a 'sacred duty'

Tehran and the P5+1 are considering a nuclear deal that leaves Iran a "threshold nuclear power"— an unacceptable outcome, Israel's ambassador to the US Ron Dermer says.

Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (R),. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (R),.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Israel’s ambassador to the United States forcefully defended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint session of Congress next month, describing the move as a “sacred duty” for the premier at a critical point for the “survival” of the state.
The agreement under consideration by world powers and Iran, US Ambassador Ron Dermer said on Sunday night, would leave Iran a “threshold nuclear power” – an outcome Israel cannot, and will not, accept.
“The prime minister’s visit to Washington is intended for one purpose, and one purpose only,” Dermer told an audience at an Israel Bonds event in Florida. “To speak up while there is still time to speak up. To speak up when there is still time to make a difference.”
Recently, Democratic leadership criticized the political nature of Netanyahu’s upcoming address – and his invitation to deliver it – after House Speaker John Boehner offered up the opportunity without consulting the White House.
The Obama administration called it “unusual,” and promptly announced its decision not to receive Netanyahu during his visit to Washington, citing the proximity to the upcoming national election in Israel.
The speech is widely expected on Capitol Hill to be a repudiation of the president’s policies on Iran.
“The prime minister’s visit here is not intended to show any disrespect for President [Barack] Obama,” Dermer told the crowd; nor is it “intended to wade into your political debate.”
The ambassador compared the controversy over Netanyahu’s forthcoming speech to recent criticism over his visit to Paris, where he partook in a march against terrorism and in solidarity with the victims of terrorist attacks there.
Alongside leaders of the free world – and leaders of a world less so – Netanyahu was cast as a political actor by his critics for highlighting the Zionist ethos in a shaken French Republic.
Its Jews were welcome in Israel, he said, by the thousands, to defend themselves by themselves.
Anti-Semitism in the form of radical Islam in Europe threatens its Jewish communities, requiring Israeli leaders to remind the world of Israel’s founding purpose, Dermer argued. So too, the magnitude of the threat of a nuclear Iran necessitates the prime minister to speak – “fearless” of the political repercussions.
In his State of the Union address this month, Obama said his goal in regards to Iran is to “negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear- armed Iran, secures America and our allies – including Israel – while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict.”
But the Israeli government has expressed dismay in recent months over the negotiating position of the US-led team in the talks. They have granted Iran the right to retain an enrichment program, according to Jerusalem, and have softened demands that it dismantle large swaths of its infrastructure.
Israel fears that the deal will be generous, that inspections for its enforcement will be weak and that the agreement will fade in a decade, allowing Iran to walk into the nuclear club shortly thereafter.
“Today, the international community stands at the precipice of forging an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program,” Dermer said on Sunday.
“The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”
“That is an agreement that could endanger the very existence of the state of Israel,” he said.
In response to the envoy, one State Department official said, any comprehensive deal reached by world powers and Iran will show the world “with clarity” that Iran cannot become a nuclear power.
“The key to our negotiations is to make certain that whatever is agreed upon will show people with clarity that Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon are cut off,” the official told The Jerusalem Post, reiterating the administration’s “unshakable” commitment to Israeli security.
He said that Israel’s leaders have been kept abreast of the talks through consultations in Washington and Israel “at the highest levels.”
“The P5+1 talks offer the best hope for a diplomatic solution that ensures Israel, and others in the region, will not be faced with an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon,” he said. “And at every step of the way through these talks, we have closely consulted with our partners, including Israel.”
Negotiators from Iran and the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany hope to seal a political framework agreement by March 31, and a comprehensive nuclear accord by June 30.