Israel Says Iran Deal Falls ShortCalev Ben-David
The “bad deal” reached between world powers and Iran falls short of removing the Islamic Republic’s potential for producing nuclear weapons, an official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said by text message today.
“The agreement makes it possible for Iran to continue enriching uranium, permits Iran to keep centrifuges that would allow it to create fissile material for nuclear weapons,” the official said, declining to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the record. Economic pressure from sanctions could have led to a “better deal,” he said.
An administration official said President Barack Obama would call Netanyahu today to discuss the accord. In discussing the agreement earlier, Obama had said he could understand why Israel would be skeptical of Iran’s intentions, according to comments broadcast on Army Radio.
The agreement was announced by diplomats early today, the fifth day of meetings in Geneva. It’s the first accord reached since Iran’s nuclear program came under international scrutiny in 2003.
The deal failed to call for the full dismantling of the heavy water reactor at Arak, the Israeli government official said in the text message. Iran agreed to not commission the Arak reactor, which could produce plutonium if it becomes operational.
“This deal will create a new arms race that includes the Middle East,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said. Finance Minister Yair Lapid said he was concerned that the deal means that “the world is no longer listening to Israel.”
Israeli officials have described Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, saying “all options are on the table” to stop it, including a military strike. Iran says its program is intended for peaceful purposes.
“If five years from now a nuclear suitcase explodes in Madrid and New York, it will be because of the agreement signed this morning,” Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said in an e-mail today. “It is important that the world know Israel is not committed to this agreement that threatens its existence.”
Bennett said yesterday that any deal Israel perceived as bad would increase the chances the government would consider a military strike to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons.
‘Need for Action’
“A bad deal definitely increases the need for action,” Bennett said on Channel Two television. “If the deal gives Iran the ability to achieve a bomb within six weeks, we won’t be able to sit idly by.”
Eldad Pardo, an Iran expert at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Israel so adamantly opposes the deal because its interim nature reminds it of the 1993 Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, which never ripened into a final peace deal.
“If you reach very quick agreements on what is easy and leave the difficult issues to some future, it may take years,” he said.
Now with Iran, “there is a kind of temporary agreement that will lead to another temporary agreement,” he said. “This isn’t a first step within an agreed-upon structure of where we are heading.”