Netanyahu: Iran nuclear deal endangers Israel, we will defend ourselves

Barak Ravid — Haaretz Nov 24, 2013

When Netanyahu appeared before the UN General Assembly last year he warned of the threat posed by Iran. Click to enalrge

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the interim agreement reached between Iran and six world powers in Geneva over the prior’s nuclear program endangered Israel, and that the country would continue to defend itself.

“Israel is not obligated by this agreement. I want to make clear we will not allow Iran to obtain military nuclear capability,” Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, just hours after the deal was reached.

In their initial reactions to the agreement signed earlier Sunday between Iran and the powers, many Israel officialsi termed the deal a “bad” one.

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office said  that the deal allows Iran to continue enriching uranium, leaves Iran in control of all its centrifuges and does not require the heavy water reactor in Arak to be dismantled.

“The economic pressure Iran is under could have led to a much better deal that destroys Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” the official said, adding that the deal “gives Iran exactly what it wanted – a serious lessening of sanctions as well as preserving the most significant parts of its nuclear program.”

Though Israeli officials say the agreement reached in Geneva between Iran and United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia does not go far enough, it is meant to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

The United States said the agreement halted progress on Iran’s nuclear program, including construction of the Arak research reactor, which is of special concern for the West as it can yield potential bomb material. It said most of the sanctions would remain in place.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier Sunday that Israel would act independently of the deal reached with Iran, adding that all options remain on the table.

“We have to be serious enough to take responsibility for our fate,” he told Israel Radio. “As always, all options are on the table.”

Lieberman called the deal a victory for Iran’s religious leaders.

“Obviously when you look at the smiles of the Iranians over there in Geneva, you realize that this is the Iranians’ greatest victory, maybe since the Khomeini revolution, and it doesn’t really change the situation within Iran,” said Lieberman. Referring to Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said “Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard are the true rulers, not [Iranian President Hassan] Rohani.”

Lieberman also indicated that Israel would be seeking other allies than the U.S. and would have to start “taking responsibility regardless of the American stance.”

“We have no alternative other than the United States, but Israel must look into new directions in addition to the U.S.,” he said. “We must take responsibility regardless of the stance of the Americans, or of others. We must make our own independent decisions.”

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon denounced the agreement as an “excellent deal for Iran and a dangerous one for the world, neutralizing the sanctions instead of the centrifuges. The agreement does not dismantle even a single centrifuge or reactor, but is a critical blow to sanctions.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin told Army Radio that while the Prime Minister’s Office has been informed of the details of the agreement, other Israeli officials who were waiting to find out the specifics still found it to be a bad deal.

“What we know about the agreement doesn’t change our estimation that this is a bad deal, for a simple reason: Iran’s technological capability is not the same technological capability it had two years ago,” said Elkin. “What the Iranians are purportedly promising to stop under the agreement was a great deal two years ago, but today it’s almost nothing. In effect, what they are getting here is an opportunity to continue enriching uranium at low levels. The bottom line is clear: Iran can continue to make progress. When you lessen sanctions, you’re gassing up Iran’s economy and it will be less eager to reach a final agreement.”

Elkin said the deal has “several tactical mistakes.” He also said that while Israel and the United States have some disagreements on the Iran deal, there is no outright clash.

“The agreement doesn’t improve the situation,” said Elkin. “It freezes the situation.”

Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Sunday that some changes were added at Israel’s request but that “the agreement was and remains a bad deal that will make it difficult to reach a suitable resolution in the future.”

Over the last few days, Israeli officials recognized that the deal was almost certainly going to go through. They tried to change some of the clauses, and some of their suggestions were implemented.

Saying the deal was based on Iranian deception and Western self-deception, Steinitz said that “despite the disappointment, we will continue to insist on our positions and to work with our friends in the United States and the rest of the world to reach a comprehensive solution that will include the true and full dismantlement of Iran’s military nuclear infrastructure.”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, meanwhile, said that Israel was not obligated to adhere to the agreement reached with the Iran, “to a deal that endangers its existence.”

The State of Israel has the right to defend itself and is capable of doing so, Bennett said in an interview with Army Radio, warning that if Iran gets a nuclear bomb, it meant that Saudi Arabia and Syria could also, setting in motion the chance of a fully nuclear Middle East.

“The bad deal that was signed gives Iran exactly what it wanted – a serious lessening of sanctions as well as preserving the most significant parts of its nuclear program,” Bennett added. “If in another five years a suitcase nuke explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning. There’s a long path ahead, and we will continue to act on all levels.”

The deal would neutralize Iran’s stockpile of uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, which is a close step away from the level needed for weapons, and calls for intrusive UN nuclear inspections, a senior U.S. official said.

Iran has also committed to stop uranium enrichment above a fissile purity of 5 percent, a U.S. fact sheet said.

Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants – Iran’s stated goal – but also provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb if refined much further.

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