Officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday rejected Iran's proposal to halt uranium enrichment to 20 percent, with one official from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office saying, "No deal is better than a bad deal."
According to the official, the Iranians are offering to give up something which does not hurt their enrichment activities and could still bring them to being a nuclear threshold state, and no one should be tempted to accept the offer.
Strategic Affairs, Intelligence and International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz called the Iranian gesture "a joke."
"Closing the Fordo compound means that Iran, in its first year of going nuclear, would be able to make five instead of six atomic bombs," he said. "Capping enrichment at 20 percent is less significant now that Iran has 20,000 centrifuges. Israel is ready for a real, serious diplomatic solution, meaning an Iranian nuclear program that operates similarly to Canada and Mexico's nuclear infrastructure: Iran could generate electricity at its reactor, but would need to purchase the nuclear fuel to operate it from other countries."
The Wall Street Journal broke the details of the Iranian proposal on Tuesday. According to the report, the proposal would include limiting the number of centrifuges operating on Iran's soil as well as a vow not to enrich uranium beyond 20 percent fissile purity -- a level that international powers consider dangerously close to weapons-grade.
Iran is also reportedly planning to propose opening its nuclear facilities to inspectors for international supervision rather than limiting international access, as it has done until now. Tehran is still deliberating whether or not to agree to the Western, and namely Israeli, demand to decommission its enrichment facility at Fordo.
A Western diplomat told The Wall Street Journal that "the Iranians are preparing to go to Geneva with a serious package ... These include limits on the numbers of centrifuges operating, enrichment amounts and the need for verification." The Geneva talks are scheduled to be held Oct. 15-16, and will be the first talks with Iran since the election of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.
French and British diplomats arrived in Israel on Wednesday to discuss relaxing sanctions on Iran. Israeli representatives emphasized that scaling back sanctions would harm negotiations with Iran and would not achieve their goal. A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said that Britain had updated Israel on "its intentions to thaw relations with Iran, to show it that dialogue is the right way." Israel maintained that there were still no European plans to lift the sanctions and that many efforts were made to prevent that.
Meanwhile, at a meeting at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel not to give up on the Iranian sanctions.
"Any relaxing of sanctions will bring about the collapse [of the sanctions policy]. We cannot fall into this trap of lifting sanctions as trust-building steps before achieving any of the goals set before the Iranians," Ya'alon said.
Hagel reassured Ya'alon that the U.S. was "not planning to change its unequivocal policy of preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons." During their talks, Hagel expressed his approval of the U.N.'s undertaking to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons. Ya'alon and Hagel also spoke about the U.S.'s efforts to improve the IDF's qualitative advantage.
Wednesday's meeting was the third of its kind in the past six months. Ya'alon thanked Hagel for his cooperation, and surprised him with a birthday gift for his 67th birthday last week.