Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “in a state of shocked disbelief” at the deal apparently taking shape in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli television news reports said Friday night.
Netanyahu, the reports on Israel’s Channel 10 and Channel 2 news said, had “an unprecedented confrontation” with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Tel Aviv on Friday morning over the possible deal, which he publicly described as “a very, very bad deal” and which he implored Kerry “not to rush to sign” and to “reconsider.”
The Netanyahu government is “in a crisis of faith” with the Obama administration over the possible deal, Israel’s Channel 1 News further reported, in part because it apparently differs in content from the terms that Kerry had previously described to Netanyahu. Other Israeli reports said Netanyahu felt he had been “misled” by the US over the terms of the deal.
Netanyahu, who blasted the possible accord as the “deal of the century” for Iran, believes it would enable the Islamic Republic to become a “nuclear breakout state,” the TV reports said — since Iran would retain its nuclear enrichment capabilities, and would thus be capable of racing to a bomb at short notice at a time of its choosing.
Israel, the TV reports said, also believes the US has been negotiating with Iran in a secret channel, without disclosing the content of those discussions to Israel.
The TV reports quoted unnamed sources on the Israeli political right accusing the Obama administration of “throwing Israel under the bus,” and leaning toward an agreement with Iran that would fatally puncture the carefully constructed international sanctions regime against Iran.
A series of analysts on the Friday night Israeli TV news broadcasts also assessed that Israel could not possibly strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities itself if the international community finalizes the mooted deal in Geneva. Israel “has no more military option,” a Channel 10 news analyst stated flatly, despite Netanyahu’s public declaration after his meeting with Kerry Friday morning that “Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself.” The report also said Vice President Joe Biden had recently assured President Barack Obama that Netanyahu would not strike at Iran.
“Netanyahu is in a state of shocked disbelief” at the imminent deal, Channel 10 news reported. It said the prime minister had not believed that a significant easing of sanctions was on the table in Geneva, but now was horrified to see that the emerging deal provided for a dramatic easing of sanctions against a mere Iranian promise to restrict uranium enrichment to 3.5%.
In his public comments Friday, a clearly agitated Netanyahu said that, under the deal, “Iran gets everything it wanted at this stage and pays nothing.”
Netanyahu — who in a clear sign of the Israel-US crisis, delivered the remarks alone, rather than at a traditional joint appearance with the visiting Kerry — added: “I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider.”
The Channel 10 report said Israel’s security establishment was also “shocked” at the reported terms.
Kerry headed from Israel to Geneva, to take an unscheduled role in the nuclear talks there. Hours after he left, Obama spoke with Netanyahu by phone and was said to have underscored Washington’s “strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
According to Britain’s Telegraph, the Iranian deal’s four main points are that Iran would stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and convert its existing stockpile into harmless uranium oxide. Iran would be able to continue enrichment to 3.5% purity necessary for nuclear power plants — but would agree to limit the number of centrifuges running for this purpose. The inactive centrifuges would be able to remain intact. Iran would also agree not to activate its plutonium reactor at Arak, which could provide an alternative route to a nuclear weapon, during the six-month period in which Iran would limit uranium enrichment to 3.5%. Lastly, Iran would agree not to use the advanced IR-2 centrifuges, which enrich uranium three to five times faster than the older model.
In return, the British paper reported, the US “would ease economic sanctions, possibly by releasing some Iranian foreign exchange reserves currently held in frozen accounts” and ease “some restrictions on Iran’s petrochemical, motor and precious metals industries.”
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 Thursday, Kerry stressed the negotiators in Geneva were requiring Iran to “provide a complete freeze over where they are today.” He argued that it was “better” to be talking to Iran, and seeking to “expand” the time it would take Iran to break out to the bomb, than not to be talking to Iran, and have it continuing to advance its nuclear program. “We have not taken away any of the sanctions yet,” Kerry said. “We will not undo the major sanctions regime until we have absolute clarity,” he said.