A French member of parliament telephoned French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Geneva at the weekend to warn him that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if the P5+1 nations did not stiffen their terms on a deal with Iran, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Sunday.
“I know [Netanyahu],” the French MP, Meyer Habib, reportedly told Fabius, and predicted that the Israeli prime minister would resort to the use of force if the deal was approved in its form at the time. “If you don’t toughen your positions, Netanyahu will attack Iran,” the report quoted Habib as saying. “I know this. I know him. You have to toughen your positions in order to prevent war.”
France’s Fabius is widely reported to have scuppered the finalizing of the emerging deal late Saturday, leading to the halting of the negotiations with Iran, and an agreement to reconvene on November 20.
Explaining his concerns to reporters in Geneva, Fabius said Tehran was resisting demands that it suspend work on its plutonium-producing reactor at Arak and downgrade its stockpile of higher-enriched uranium.
Habib, the deputy president of the Jewish umbrella organization in France, was elected to the National Assembly in Paris in June, to represent the district of southern Europe, which includes French nationals residing in Israel.
“I have known Meyer Habib for many years and he is a good friend to me and to Israel,” Netanyahu said in French in a video of endorsement posted on YouTube in May. Standing next to Habib, Netanyahu continued in Hebrew: “He fights a lot for Israel, for public opinion, and cares intensely about the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, and he has helped me over the years deepen Israeli-French relations.”
The TV report on Sunday said Jerusalem believed that Netanyahu’s angry public criticism of the emerging deal, and his phone conversations with world leaders — including Presidents Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and Francois Hollande, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron — had played a crucial role in stalling the deal, but that Israel was well aware that an agreement would be reached very soon. Netanyahu himself said Sunday that he was aware of the “strong desire” for a deal on the part of the P5+1 negotiators, and had asked the various leaders in his calls, “What’s the hurry?”
The report, quoting sources in Jerusalem, said Netanyahu and ministers close to him were castigating the United States for its “radical eagerness” in seeking a deal, and saying that Washington appeared fearful of confrontation with Iran. “This is no way to run a negotiation,” the sources were quoted as saying. The Americans “are giving up all of their pressure points, and the Iranians recognize the Americans’ weakness.”
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu expressed outrage that under the terms of the emerging deal, “not a single centrifuge would be dismantled, not one.”
Israel believes the imminent deal will leave Iran with uranium enrichment capabilities, and thus enable it to become a nuclear breakout state at a time of its choosing.
Secretary of State John Kerry hit back at Netanyahu on Sunday, declaring, “I’m not sure that the prime minister, who I have great respect for, knows exactly what the amount or the terms are going to be because we haven’t arrived at them all yet. That’s what we’re negotiating.”
After the talks broke up in Geneva after midnight Saturday, Kerry complained about critics who were “jumping to conclusions” about the terms of the accord on the basis of “rumors or other parcels of information that somebody pretends to know.”
Netanyahu on Friday publicly pleaded with Kerry not to rush to sign what he called a “very, very bad deal.”