WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that any nuclear deal leaving Iran with the capability to enrich uranium would be “catastrophic.”
“It would be a disaster for the United States and for everyone else,” Netanyahu said as a deadline loomed for an agreement on Iran’s disputed nuclear program between the West and the Islamic Republic.
Netanyahu’s comments in an interview with Fox News Sunday came as foreign ministers of the United States, France, Britain and Germany gathered in Vienna to face off with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. In a media blitz the prime minister was scheduled to give additional interviews with the CNN, CBS, and ABC news channels.
At one point during the recording of the interviews Netanyahu explained that noises in the background were the “all clear” announcements following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.
A six month interim deal with Iran expires July 20 and US Secretary of State John Kerry said “significant gaps” remain before a final deal can be reached.
Netanyahu warned that “a bad deal is actually worse than no deal,” defining that as one in which Iran would keep enriched nuclear material and the capability to further enrich uranium in return for monitoring by international inspectors.
“I certainly hope that doesn’t happen. I think it would be a catastrophic development, because you know the Middle East is in turmoil, everything is topsy-turvy, the worst militants, Shiites and Sunni radicals are vying with each other who will be the king of the Islamist hill,” he said.
“If any one of these sides get their hands on nuclear weapons, all bets are off.”
Netanyahu also talked about the ongoing Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip as the IDF tries to stem rocket fire from Palestinian terrorists that have reached the length of the country as far north as Haifa.
“We can’t enable our people to be under constant rocket fire,” Netanyau said. “Imagine the US being bombarded not in one city or two cities but in every city from New York to Colorado. Eighty percent of your citizens would be in bomb shelters or ready to go into bomb shelters within a minute or a minute and a half max. No country can accept that.”
“The mission is to restore a sustainable quiet to our people by seriously degrading Hamas and other terrorist groups capabilities in Gaza,” he said and added that both military and diplomatic tracks are options for achieving that result. However, he declined to elaborate on how far toward that goal the operation is.
Netanyahu stressed that while Israel is trying to avoid civilian causalities, Hamas is deliberately putting civilians in the line of fire.
“We face a very very brutal terrorist enemy,” he said. “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians and they are using civilians to protect their missiles.”
The prime minister explained the IDF is trying to deal with the difficulty of an enemy that embeds its military command posts and rocket-firing systems in civilian areas.
“Obviously we are not going to give them immunity,” he said. “And so we have to attack and we try to minimize civilian casualties. We are trying surgical action, we are not indiscriminate.”
Some 20 people were killed Saturday night when an airstrike targeted the home of the Hamas police chief in the Gaza Strip.
The police chief, Tayseer al-Batsh, was moderately injured. He underwent surgery and was reportedly in stable condition on Sunday morning. Most of the dead were members of his family.