Israel in diplomatic blitz to affect outcome of 'inevitable' Iran deal
Alongside lobbying Congress, Netanyahu to enlist Putin and Hollande to "negotiate a better deal" • Ya'alon: Iran needs to be faced with dilemma of choosing between a bomb or survival • Foxman: Kerry's moral preaching to Israelis was counterproductive.
Shlomo Cesana, Eli Leon, Yoni Hirsch, Dan Lavie, Israel Hayom Staff and News Agencies
"We can negotiate a better deal," says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo credit: AP
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Photo credit: AP
Israeli diplomatic officials realize that a deal between the six world powers and Iran on curbing Iran's controversial nuclear program is simply a matter of time, and could even be signed as early as next week, when talks between the sides resume in Geneva. The Prime Minister's Office is planning a diplomatic blitz to ensure the agreement is as good as it can be from Israel's perspective.
Alongside lobbying the U.S. Congress to influence the White House, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to enlist Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande to "negotiate a better deal," as he put it. Next week, Hollande is scheduled to visit Jerusalem before jetting off to Moscow to meet with Putin.
Netanyahu seeks to change some of the potential clauses in the deal that would enable Iran to become a nuclear threshold state. So what would be a good deal? As far as Netanyahu is concerned, it must include three basic stipulations: Suspension of all uranium enrichment (which would mean all centrifuges must be dismantled); removal of existing enriched material from Iran; and decommissioning the plutonium production plant at Arak.
"Any deal that does not include these three points that Netanyahu mentioned would be a bad deal. One that Netanyahu would condemn," one official said Monday.
During a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders this week, Netanyahu said that "the joint objective for us, the U.S., Europe, China and Russia is to prevent Iran from developing military nuclear capability. I think that now is the time to improve the deal. Iran is in dire economic straits and we can negotiate a better deal. Before easing the sanctions, we need to get a good deal, not a bad deal."
Ya'alon: Israel has to yell
Speaking at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Jerusalem on Monday, Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon said that "if we want to avoid the military option, we have to make use of all the available tools, especially harsh sanctions, and not let up. That is why Israel has to yell out, 'We are about to miss our opportunity.' We believe that even now, the regime needs to be faced with the dilemma of choosing between a bomb or survival. We are not far from achieving that, with tough sanctions."
Meanwhile, the widening cracks in the relationship between Israel and the U.S. have not yet healed. When Netanyahu chooses to operate through the Kremlin, Congress and the Elysee Palace rather than the White House to negotiate a better deal, one can understand why U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro opted to focus on the things that Israel and the U.S. have in common, telling the GA on Monday that "there is no greater priority for the United States and Israel than preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."
"On this issue the United States and Israel share an identical objective. [President Barack] Obama has made it crystal clear that he will not permit Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, period, and is prepared to use all elements of our national power to ensure that we are successful," he said.
Kerry demands patience
Also on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continued to insist that Netanyahu was criticizing the potential deal without being really familiar with it. "The time to oppose it is when you see what it is, not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible,” Kerry said at a news conference after meeting with the crown prince and foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.
Addressing allegations that French reservations had scuttled a deal between Iran and the West in Geneva over the weekend, Kerry said that all the powers had been in agreement on the deal, but the Iranian delegation had rejected it.
"The French signed off on it, we signed off on it," Kerry said. "There was unity but Iran couldn't take it."
Firing back, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of U.S. draft Thursday night? And publicly commented against it Friday morning?"
Zarif also told an Iranian TV talk show that the American's "conflicting statements" damaged confidence in the process, adding that "considerable progress was made" in Geneva.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius voiced hope on Monday that the six world powers and Iran would be able reach an agreement. He stressed, however, that there were several points that Iran still needed to work on before an agreement could be signed.
Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, who was visiting Israel for the ADL's 100th anniversary, on Monday expressed criticism over the U.S. government policy pertaining to Iran and called for additional sanctions on Iran.
"For better and for worse, Israel and the United States are stuck with each other. Israel is the only stable country in the region and the United States knows that. The United States and Israel share the same goals: seeking stability, preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and make progress with the Israeli Palestinian peace process," Foxman said in a statement.
"The strategy to get there is different; this creates tension between the two states. Sometimes the strategy overtakes the goals. Both countries need each other but don't trust each other. At the same time, they also violate the pledge not to surprise each other. Sadly, the United States is more guilty of this than Israel, for example the recent leaking of information about Israel’s defensive military actions in the area, i.e., Israeli military actions in Syria and Sudan. In addition to all of this, Kerry's moral preaching to the Israelis was counterproductive. Then came the surprise on the Geneva agreement. Having seen some of the points in the tentative agreement which is to be acted upon, Nov. 20 in Geneva, I'm very troubled. I am convinced that it will not only unroll the sanctions protocol prematurely, a strategy which has been so successful in bringing the Iranians to the table but more seriously, it will legitimize Iran as a threshold nuclear state.
"Therefore, I believe it is now the time for the U.S. Congress, especially the Senate, not only to reconfirm and strengthen the existing sanctions, but also to begin to impose additional sanctions against Iran. Crippling sanctions have worked in the past and they will succeed in undoing Iran’s desire to become a nuclear weapons country."