A nuclear deal with Iran based on the political framework reached in Switzerland between Tehran and the P5+1 group earlier Thursday “threatens the survival of the state of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US President Barack Obama during a phone call to discuss the accord.
In further comments Friday, Netanyahu said any final agreement must “include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”
Obama phoned Netanyahu hours after the framework was struck. Netanyahu has been strongly opposed to the emerging deal, arguing that it does not have the necessary safeguards and will pave the way to a nuclear Iran.
“A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel. Just two days ago, Iran said that “the destruction of Israel is nonnegotiable,” and in these fateful days Iran is accelerating the arming of its terror proxies to attack Israel. This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy, and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond,” Netanyahu told Obama during the call.
“Such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it. It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war. The alternative is standing firm and increasing the pressure on Iran until a better deal is achieved,” he added.
Obama, calling from aboard Air Force One, said the deal “represents significant progress towards a lasting, comprehensive solution that cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb and verifiably ensures the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward,” according to a read-out released by the White House.
Obama said the deal “in no way diminishes our concerns with respect to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and threats towards Israel and emphasized that the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to the security of Israel,” the White House said.
The US president told Netanyahu that he instructed his security team to “increase consultations with the new Israeli government about how we can further strengthen our long-term security cooperation with Israel and remain vigilant in countering Iran’s threats.”
Earlier, immediately after the deal was announced, an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, castigated the framework agreement as a dangerous capitulation to Tehran that would result in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear armament.
“This is a bad framework that will lead to a bad and dangerous deal,” he said. “If an agreement is reached based on the guidelines of this framework, that would be a historic mistake that will transform the world into a much more dangerous place.”
Those comments came shortly after Obama had welcomed the deal as making the world “a safer place.” Netanyahu had tweeted earlier in the evening that the deal would need to “significantly” roll back the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Obama, in his speech following the accord, openly acknowledged that he and Netanyahu “don’t agree” on how to stop Iran, and charged that Netanyahu did not want the US to move “forward to a peaceful resolution,” while telling Netanyahu that the new deal was “the most effective” and “best option.”
Netanyahu, however, has not opposed a diplomatic solution in principle, but rather the deal as it has been taking shape. “The framework gives Iran’s nuclear program, the sole purpose of which is to produce nuclear bombs, international legitimacy,” the Israeli official said.
“Iran will still have extensive nuclear capabilities. It will continue to enrich uranium. It will continue its centrifuge research and development. It will not close even one of its nuclear facilities, including the underground facility at Fordo. This and more.
“The bottom line,” the official warned, “is that this deal ensures the full removal of the sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program while assuring that it will keep its nuclear capabilities.
“There is no demand that Iran stop its aggression in the region, its terrorism around the world or its threats to destroy Israel, which it has repeated again over the past several days,” the official complained.
“This deal kowtows to Iranian dictates and it will not lead to a nuclear program for peaceful purposes, but rather to a military nuclear program.”
The alternative to a bad deal is not war but rather a different deal,” the official concluded, “one that will significantly dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and will require Iran to stop its aggression and terrorism in the region and around the world.”
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog said in a statement published on Facebook that the crux of the understandings reached between Iran and world powers was still to be finalized, and that “we must ensure that the final agreement that will be formulated now will roll back Iran’s nuclear program in a manner which prevents them from [obtaining] a nuclear weapon, and will protect the security interests of Israel.”
Centrist Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid noted: “On the Iranian nuclear issue there is no opposition and coalition. We are all concerned that the Iranians will circumvent the deal and Israel must protect its own security interests. The ayatollah’s regime has been peddling fraud and deception for years and progressing with its nuclear program. They will try, from day one, to cheat the international community as they have done in the past.”
Added Lapid: There is no basis to the determination that today Iran was prevented from attaining a nuclear weapon. Israel needs to work with the United States and the international community to ensure there is no Iranian fraud, something that would threaten Israel’s security and that of the world.”
Meanwhile, an Israeli commentator concluded that the deal takes Israel’s military option off the table.
“If there was a possibility of an Israeli military strike” to thwart Iran prior to this point, said Channel 2’s diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal as the deal was announced, “it is now off the table.
The notion of Israel taking military action now, Segal added, would be beyond “irresponsible and foolish.”
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who oversees the monitoring of the nuclear program, said the deal was “disconnected from the sad reality” of the region.
Following Thursday’s announcement, Iran and the world powers are expected to work out the details of a final deal by the end of June.
“Since the declaration is far from being a real agreement, we will continue in our efforts to explain and persuade the world in the hope of preventing a bad agreement, or at least to insert corrections and improvements,” Steinitz said.
AP contributed to this report.