Iran Nuclear Deal: Israelis Say West Gave Away Too Much

By Bryant, Christa Case | The Christian Science Monitor, April 3, 2015 | Go to article overview

Iran Nuclear Deal: Israelis Say West Gave Away Too Much


Bryant, Christa Case, The Christian Science Monitor


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, a veteran critic of Iran's nuclear program, swiftly denounced the preliminary nuclear agreement reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, as a naive capitulation with sweeping regional - or even global - ramifications.

"This deal would legitimize Iran's nuclear program, bolster Iran's economy, and increase Iran's aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond," he told President Obama in a phone call after the US president heralded the "historic" deal. "Such a deal would not block Iran's path to the bomb. It would pave it."

On Friday, he added the demand that any finalized deal with Iran include Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist.

It was predictable that Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies would oppose the "framework" deal reached in Lausanne Thursday night. Naftali Bennett, who is angling to become foreign minister or defense minister in Netanyahu's new government, called the deal "the 2015 Chamberlain agreement," referring to the British prime minister's ill-fated Munich deal in 1938 that paved the way for Hitler to expand his conquest of Europe.

But it is not just Netanyahu, fashioning himself as a modern Churchill, who believes the West made unwise concessions to a cunning Iran.

Yair Lapid, the centrist Yesh Atid party leader whose falling out with Netanyahu precipitated the collapse of his previous government late last year, said that when it comes to Iran there are no political divisions.

"We are all concerned that the Iranians will circumvent the deal, and Israel must protect its own security interests. The ayatollah's regime has been peddling fraud and deception for years and progressing with its nuclear program. They will try, from day one, to cheat the international community as they have done in the past."

Netanyahu convened a special cabinet meeting Friday to discuss the deal with intelligence and security chiefs, and said the cabinet is strongly united in opposing the deal.

Concessions of noteMany Israelis, who are as native to the culture of Middle East bargaining as their Persian or Arab neighbors, are dumbfounded at the degree to which they say American and European diplomats failed to leverage their strategic advantage over a country weakened by international sanctions.

"Instead of Iran pleading to end the sanctions, Obama pleaded Iran to sign the agreement," wrote Tim Borodin, one of many commenters responding to an article about the deal in the daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

Among the concessions of most concern to Israel are the fact that centrifuges at the underground Fordow plant that Iran developed in secret will remain in place, albeit not for uranium enrichment. Iran will also be able to continue research and development on advanced centrifuges, which could enable it to enrich weapons-grade uranium much faster in the future. And aspects of Iran's nuclear program with potential military dimensions (PMDs), such as Israeli assertions last September that Iran had developed a nuclear detonator at its Parchin complex, were hardly addressed.

"The dangerous aspect of this is that Iran actually will be able to maintain its breakout capability. As long as things are mothballed and not dismantled, then conceivably this could break down. And when it does, Iran will have its infrastructure basically intact," says Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the independent Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) on Tel Aviv University's campus. "We have no indication from this deal that Iran's military aspirations have changed, and that's the key to understanding this whole issue."

No. 1 concern: regional aggressionSome see a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to Israel, and frantically call attention to bellicose rhetoric such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's statement during last summer's Gaza war that "Israel's annihilation is the only real cure. …

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