MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), a former defense minister and Labor party leader, expressed support on Tuesday for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing criticism of the nuclear deal announced last week between Western powers and Iran.
Netanyahu “is succeeding in placing the Iran issue on the international agenda, and he is right to do so,” Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio Tuesday morning. The United States, the main broker of the Iran deal, is Israel’s “most important ally,” Ben-Eliezer continued, but noted that “the style between the two offices [of the prime minister and the White House] has to change.”
“There has to be intensive dialogue” between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Obama administration, so that Netanyahu “will be able to influence the final agreement [with Iran],” Ben-Eliezer said. “I hope dialogue over Iran straightens out to where it was in the past, [which] will allow [Israel] to influence the final agreement.”
Since the interim agreement was announced early last week, Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have publicly blasted the terms of the deal, which they say eases crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic but still leaves Iran the capacity to quickly build a nuclear bomb if it chooses to do so.
At a press conference in Rome on Monday, Netanyahu again expressed strong opposition to the nuclear accord and urged European powers to demand a substantial rollback from Iran of its nuclear enrichment capabilities before agreeing to ease an effective sanctions regime. He warned that although Tehran, led by President Hassan Rouhani, presented a smiling face to the West, it continued to “butcher people in Syria, to promote terrorism” and to support Hezbollah and Hamas.
Also on Monday, Jerusalem officials lashed out against US President Barack Obama for wanting, they said, to reach an agreement with Iran in order finish his second term in office without getting bogged down in another conflict.
After anonymous US officials were quoted in the Israeli press saying that Netanyahu’s outspoken criticism of the interim deal with Iran was “weak and desperate,” the unnamed officials sniped back, saying Obama only cared about surviving the remaining three years in office, according to a Ynet report.
Describing the upheaval-ridden Middle East as “a cauldron of instability,” Netanyahu on Monday said “a nuclear-armed ayatollah regime in Iran” would “topple the apple-cart” by tipping the region away from modernity, stability and “a better future for all of us” and into the hands of those who “reject modernity, reject pluralism, reject science, reject technology” and aim to plunge the region into “darkness.”
The prime minister warned that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons capabilities, it will be “a pivot of history” that will not only upset progress all over the Middle East, but also might endanger Europe and the world at large, a possibility which “must be stopped.”
Yifa Yaakov contributed to this report.