As news broke in the wee hours of the morning of an interim deal reached between Iran and world powers over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, Israeli ministers and political figures from across the political spectrum took to the airwaves with sharp critique.
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In an interview on Israel Defense Forces radio, Israel’s Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, widely believed to be the second most influential politician in the country, sounded a bitter tone.
“We had a choice here between the plague and cholera. We were left alone explaining the truth, and all of our options were bad,” he said. “I don’t understand how the French Foreign Minister can call an agreement that doesn’t involve the dismantling of one centrifuge a ‘victory.’ I can’t understand the world’s failure to notice the nineteen thousand Iranian centrifuges.”
“Obviously a deal is better than a war, but not this deal,” he said. “Netanyahu did everything he could and we all stand behind him on this.”
Describing it as “the biggest diplomatic victory Iran has known in recent years,” Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that “the State of Israel will have to think things over.”
“This brings us to a new reality in the whole Middle East,” he told Israel Radio.
“We awoke this morning to a new reality. A reality in which a bad deal was signed with Iran. A very bad deal,” said Israel’s Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. He painted a bleak picture of what may come to pass as a result of the arrangement. “If a nuclear suitcase blows up five years from now in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning” .
“It is important that the world knows: Israel will not be committed to a deal that endangers its very existence,” Bennett added.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, the country’s Minister of Tourism Uzi Landau said that
“Iran has zero credibility but has been treated as an equal partner.”
“When the West comes to the table with intent to get a deal at any cost, it is obvious that the deal will be bad,” he lamented. “Western leaders were influenced by their internal economic interests.”
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz also sharply criticized the deal, saying that it is reminiscent of the “bad deal with North Korea.” Asked about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, Steinitz said,
“We have never surrendered our right to self defense to anyone, including the United States.”
According to the Associated Press, Steinitz also referred to the deal as being based on
“Iranian deception and self-delusion.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said that although Israel considers the agreement to be bad, it still could have been worse.
“The final text of the agreement while still bad, is better than the first draft,” he said.
Elkin also said that while the relief from sanctions offered to Iran in the deal may appear to be relatively limited, its impact will in reality be far more significant.
“Those who claim that the agreement freezes the status quo are not telling the truth. The Western readiness to ease the sanctions will cause the global sanctions regime to start crumbling,” he predicted.
“Israel must maintain its military readiness and work to apply diplomatic pressure to influence the final deal with Iran,” Elkin added.
“This is an excellent deal for Iran, but unfortunately this agreement is extremely dangerous for the free world,”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said in an email to The Algemeiner.
“The centrifuges are staying in place while the sanctions regime is dismantled. This is exactly the opposite result that peace-loving people had been hoping for. It goes without saying that all options remain on the table and that Israel has the capability – and the responsibility – to defend itself using any means necessary.”
Channel 2 reported that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to address the deal in a statement at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting in a couple of hours. Jerusalem believes that the deal, while marginally better than the first draft, is still bad, and could get worse if the controls stipulated in the agreement aren’t rigorously implemented, the channel said.
“The agreement provides for Iran both a significant easing of sanctions and the ability to maintain a significant portion of its nuclear program. The agreement allows Iran to continue enriching uranium, leaves it with all its centrifuges that enable it to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, and also does not provide for the dismantling of the reactor in Arak,” officials in the Prime Minister’s office said.
A Knesset source who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak on the matter, told The Algemeiner that Israel is disappointed and feels betrayed, and that chances of any great concessions in a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority are now slim.
Amos Yadlin the former head of Israeli military intelligence said that Israel
“Will know in a few months if this was a new Munich (agreement wherein Nazi Germany was allowed to annex parts of Czechoslovakia) which will lead us to war, or a new Camp David which can lead to peace.”
Uzi Rabi, Director of the Dayan Center for Middle East studies at Tel Aviv University was even more direct.
“Iran has prevailed,” he said, “Rouhani has achieved his internal goals.”
“This deal sacrifices the long term interests of the West in exchange for the short term gain of getting Iran to agree not to cross the nuclear threshold for a few months,” he said.