Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he offered a “practical alternative” to the prospective nuclear agreement between six world powers and Iran, rebutting criticism from the White House that his speech in Congress did not offer any new practical policy proposals on how to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
He also said that his controversial address helped US lawmakers from both sides of the aisle better understand why the agreement currently under discussion is deeply flawed.
“The response I received from both Democrats and Republicans was very supportive,” Netanyahu said upon landing at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport after a three-day trip to Washington. “I got the impression that they better understand that the current proposal would lead to a bad deal and that the alternative is a better deal.”
Netanyahu said he presented “a practical alternative” to the deal six world powers under American leadership — the so-called P5+1 — are currently discussing with the Islamic Republic by imposing tougher restrictions on its nuclear program. He said he called for the extension “by years” of Iran’s breakout time, or the time it would need to amass enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb to several years, in case Iran were to violate the agreement.
“I also called on the P5+1 to insist on a deal that would link the lifting of those restrictions to Iran’s ceasing its sponsorship of terrorism around the world, its aggression against its neighbors and its calls for Israel’s destruction,” he said.
On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama said Netanyahu’s speech had offered “nothing new” and suggested no viable alternatives to the plan were discussed.
“We don’t yet have a deal. But if we are successful, this will be the best deal possible with Iran to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon,” Obama told reporters after having read a transcript of Netanyahu’s speech. “On the core issue, which is how do we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would make it far more dangerous and would give it scope for even greater action in the region, the prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.”
During his speech Tuesday, Netanyahu called on the P5+1 to drop the current deal and strive to attain a better one by increasing pressure on Iran. He denied the often-made claim that a breakdown of the current negotiations would make a diplomatic solution of the nuclear standoff impossible.
“Now we’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s just not true,” he said. “The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal: a better deal that doesn’t leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short breakout time; a better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in place until Iran’s aggression ends; a better deal that won’t give Iran an easy path to the bomb; a better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally.”
Iran’s nuclear program can be rolled back “well-beyond the current proposal” by maintaining pressure on Iran, Netanyahu said, describing Tehran as a “very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil.”