Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right to oppose a nuclear agreement with Iran proposed, and rejected, over the weekend, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said on Sunday, adding that such an accord would work in favor of radical forces in Tehran that allegedly aim to acquire nuclear weapons.
“The prime minister is not mistaken: The deal is a bad one,” Livni said during an interview with Channel 2 News. “It will turn an interim arrangement into a permanent settlement.”
The justice minister went on to assert that easing sanctions on Iran at the present juncture would only serve to boost the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions, and added that, rather than conceding to Iran, the West should pressure it in order to achieve a more secure agreement in the future.
“It was very hard to put all these sanctions into place,” Livni said. “Now, when we have finally reached a stage where Iran feels the pressure and is seated at the negotiating table, we should use that advantage in order to reach a good deal.”
Despite reported progress, the latest round of discussions over the weekend in Geneva, conducted between Iran and the P5+1 powers over Iran’s nuclear program and weapons capabilities, ended without a deal after a proposed agreement was questioned by France. Negotiations are due to take place again on November 20.
Israel has strongly opposed any arrangement that would leave Iran with the capability to quickly construct a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu in particular had been bitterly critical of the emerging deal, and on Friday publicly urged US Secretary of State John Kerry not to sign it. Unnamed ministers claimed that the meeting between the two had a “significant” effect on Kerry and strengthened his resolve to complete a deal with Iran.
After the talks in Geneva concluded early Sunday morning, Kerry gave a press conference in which he seemed to hit back at Netanyahu, urging critics not to jump to conclusions about the terms being discussed, or speak out on the basis of rumors.
Livni claimed the disagreements between the US and Israel did not reflect a rift between the two countries. Israel, she said, was determined to circulate its views among US officials.
“Our point is not to widen the gaps, but to explain and convince,” she said.
President Shimon Peres also backed Netanyahu’s position on Sunday, claiming that the proposed deal would not have halted Iran’s advance toward a nuclear weapon.
“The P5+1 did not come to an agreement, and rightly so,” Peres said during a state ceremony marking 40 years since the passing of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. “A deal which does not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power must not be signed.”
The president added that Israel wasn’t against an agreement that would limit Tehran’s nuclear capabilities, though it expected such a deal to be sustainable in the long run.
“We are not opposed to diplomacy to achieve this goal, but there is no point in a deal which would not prevent Iran from becoming nuclear,” Peres said. “I believe that our government’s position, expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is the correct one.”