Defense minister on Iran: ‘West must not blink’

Defense minister on Iran: ‘West must not blink’

Ministers, opposition slam emerging deal on Iran's nuclear program; Lapid warns against lifting sanctions

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Ministers and opposition politicians on Saturday criticized the reported terms of a deal being discussed in Geneva on Tehran’s rogue nuclear program.

Echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments on Friday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Saturday that a deal with Iran at this current stage would be a “historic mistake,” and warned the West against being the first to blink.

“Precisely at this time, when the regime in Tehran is in a dire economic situation and is worried about its survival, Western powers must not blink and reach an agreement with it that will provide it with breathing room for which it’s not required to give anything in return,” Ya’alon said in a press release Saturday.

“If one wants to prevent the use of force, one must know how to use tough diplomacy to bring Tehran to a point where it must decide between continued nuclear activity and its survival,” he went on.

“A deal now, under the current conditions is a historic mistake that will enable a war-mongering regime to carry on with its dangerous nuclear activities,” Ya’alon warned.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) warned that the West must not act in haste and must use the sanctions as leverage.

“At this time, when the leaders of the free world are considering a deal with Iran, it’s important to say that Iran must be prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and this must be done in a such a way that is uncompromising and without scaling back sanctions before this goal is achieved. We must not act hastily,” Livni wrote on her Facebook page Saturday.

Minister of Interior Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) said the deal being discussed was “a bad deal,” and said Netanyahu had been left with no choice but to angrily and publicly oppose it.

It would have been unthinkable for Israel to have “sat in silence,” said Sa’ar, when news was emerging of a possible deal under which “Iran gets legitimacy for enrichment” and would “become a breakout state.”

Sa’ar said that Netanyahu spoke to both US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and expressed opposition to the terms, Sa’ar said.

Speaking on BBC Radio’s Today program, Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned Saturday that if the sanctions currently imposed on Iran were even partially lifted, it would be impossible to keep tabs on the companies wishing to do business with Iran, much less “stop the flood.”

Lapid, the Yesh Atid leader, said that the impact of the sanctions was the only reason the Iranians were sitting at the negotiating table in Geneva. Once some of the sanctions were lifted, said Lapid, “all hell is going to break loose.” Nobody would want to be the last in line to resume dealings with Iran, he warned, and thus the whole sanctions framework would be endangered. That’s why, he added, “a partial deal is even worse than no deal at all.”

Lapid’s comments came in stark contrast to Obama’s assurances Friday that even if “some very modest relief” were provided to Iran under an interim deal now, the economic pressure could be “cranked up” again if Tehran failed to come through on commitments over its rogue nuclear program.

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, meanwhile, said Saturday that Israel’s position in the negotiations was difficult, as “it is very worrisome that Israel is entering the complex arena of negotiations between Iran and world powers on the nuclear issue at the peak of a crisis with the Americans.”

She said details of the terms being discussed in Geneva represented “a cause for concern” and underlined that she shared Netanyahu’s firm insistence that Iran must not be enabled to attain a nuclear weapons capability.

Labor chair Yachimovich added that the more Washington distances itself from Jerusalem as peace talks with the Palestinians stagnate, the more Israel’s influence on the Iranian issue is diminished.

Also speaking on the Iranian issue Saturday was MK Yitzhak Herzog (Labor), who called on Netanyahu to accept that his Iran policy had failed to convince world powers of Israel’s point of view.

Lamenting the fact that Israel had “no influence at all” on the negotiations currently taking place in Geneva, Herzog nevertheless urged Western powers to seize the “historic opportunity to bring about change” by “dismantling Iran’s nuclear program.”

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