As he prepares to lead an Israeli delegation to Washington in an effort to pressure the White House on Iran, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz says that unless there is a “dramatic development” in nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1, Israel won’t be able to accept the outcome of the negotiations.
Speaking to Israel Radio on Wednesday morning, Steinitz said that Iran and its president, Hassan Rouhani, have so far made only marginal concessions, but “protected the core” of the nuclear project — uranium enrichment — “which is what threatens us and the whole world.”
In comments translated by Reuters, Steinitz said, “This means that in substance, Iran’s positions have remained as tough as before, and if there is no dramatic development in the coming month then either there will be no deal, or there will be a bad deal leaving Iran a nuclear threshold state, and this is of course something we are not willing to accept.”
He said that he would be leading the Israeli delegation to Washington “ahead of the main, the central and possibly the last round of talks between the world powers and Iran” — hinting that if the negotiations resulted in a “bad deal” under which Iran is allowed to retain its nuclear capacity, Israel might be forced to act to prevent an undesirable outcome.
Steinitz’s delegation is due to travel to Washington next week to lobby US officials for a tough line in renewed talks between major powers and Iran on its nuclear program.
Israel bitterly opposed the interim deal that Washington and other powers reached with Tehran last November, which paved the way for the talks on a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s future nuclear activities.
Under the interim deal, Tehran agreed to rein in some of its activities in return for limited relief from crippling Western sanctions.
Israel, which reportedly has the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, had pushed for even stronger Western sanctions against its arch-foe to force it to give up all of its nuclear program.
Jerusalem has refused to rule out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent any possibility of it developing the technology for an atomic bomb.
Iran and the six powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany — had been working to a July target date for a comprehensive agreement to allay international concerns about its ambitions. But they agreed to extend the talks until November 24 to allow more time to reach a historic deal.
The new talks are to open in New York ahead of the opening of the UN General Assembly on September 16.
Also during Wednesday’s interview, Steinitz reacted to a video released Tuesday showing the beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff, saying that the fact that terrorist organizations commit atrocities is “nothing new.”
Steinitz warned that two “axes of terrorism” were emerging to threaten the world — a Sunni jihadist axis, embodied by the Islamic State and similar groups, and a Shiite axis led by an Iranian regime in pursuit of nuclear weapons.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.