Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday evening said it was “absurd” to suggest that his relationship with US President Barack Obama had any bearing on the nuclear deal.
In his third statement to the press in a single day, the prime minister said that without Israel’s efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Tehran would have already broken out to the bomb.
Israel will continue to work to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, he vowed.
Netanyahu made a brief statement after exiting a security cabinet meeting, during which the ministers voted unanimously to reject the Iran deal “and determined that Israel is not bound by it,” according to a press release.
“The claim by political sources that my personal relationship with Obama had an effect on the nuclear deal is absurd,” he said.
Several opposition Knesset members, including Zionist Union party leader Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, had charged that Netanyahu’s strained ties with the US president compromised Israel’s negotiating position.
The US administration was set on “normalizing ties with Iran” even “before I entered my position,” Netanyahu said. “Afterwards, the US opened secret negotiations with Iran that were later made public. Obviously, the desire to reach a deal led to this outcome.”
Netanyahu hailed Israeli efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear efforts, while maintaining that he had spared no effort during the past 20 years to stop Tehran.
“On the other hand, in the past two decades, even when I wasn’t prime minister and later when I was elected, I did everything, everything in my power, everything in the power of Israel, to prevent Iran from arming itself with a nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.
“The pressure we applied and the operations we carried out for years have stopped Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons. I can say that without Israel’s actions, Iran would have long received nuclear arms.”
The prime minister urged a united political front in Israel to combat the nuclear deal.
“We have one goal — to ensure that it won’t arm itself in the future,” he added. “And at this time, facing this task, we cannot occupy ourselves with petty politics and false accusations.”
Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Obama, expressing Israel’s concerns over the Iranian nuclear deal and maintaining that the Islamic Republic would obtain nuclear weapons with or without the agreement.
“The prime minister emphasized that the deal raises two main dangers: It will allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons — if it keeps to the deal, at the end of the 10-15 years, if it breaks it, before then,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
“It addition, it will pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the Iranian terror and war machine which threatens Israel and the entire world,” the statement quoted Netanyahu as telling Obama.
Obama told the skeptical prime minister that the freshly sealed Iran nuclear deal was in Israel’s “national security interest” and dispatched his secretary of defense to the Jewish state for talks.
The White House said Ashton Carter would travel to Israel next week.
“The president told the prime minister that today’s agreement on the nuclear issue will not diminish our concerns regarding Iran’s support for terrorism and threats toward Israel,” the White House said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Netanyahu slammed the world powers’ nuclear deal with Iran as a “stunning historic mistake,” while maintaining that Israel was under no obligation to adhere to it.
“Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves,” Netanyahu told foreign media reporters in Jerusalem.
The prime minister lashed out at world powers for easing sanctions against the Islamic Republic without requiring it to cease support for militant movements in the region, and for not requiring Tehran to dismantle its facilities as part of the agreement.
“By not dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, in a decade this deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorism regime the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs; in fact an entire nuclear arsenal, with the means to deliver it,” he said. “What a stunning historic mistake.”