Senior ministers demand world powers reject Iran’s ‘cosmetic concessions’

Senior ministers demand world powers reject Iran’s ‘cosmetic concessions’

In unanimous decision ahead of Geneva talks, security cabinet -- including Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni -- backs PM's hard-line stance in nuclear standoff

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu walking to a Cabinet meeting earlier this week. (photo credit: Emil Salman/POOL/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu walking to a Cabinet meeting earlier this week. (photo credit: Emil Salman/POOL/Flash90)

As six world powers were set to negotiate with Iran about its nuclear program Tuesday in Geneva, Israel’s top ministers unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the international community to reject any agreement that would stop short of demanding a full dismantling of the regime’s military nuclear program.

“The international community must reject Iran’s attempts to reach a deal that leaves it with the capability to develop nuclear weapons and must insist upon a genuine and sustainable agreement,” read the statement issued by the security cabinet, signaling broad approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkish stance toward Iran within the government. “Iran believes it can get by with cosmetic concessions that would not significantly impede its path to developing nuclear weapons, concessions that could be reversed in weeks.”

The security cabinet consists of seven senior ministers, including Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. It also includes more dovish politicians such as Finance Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads the center-left Hatnua party.

“An Iran with military nuclear capabilities would threaten world peace and stability as well as the security of countries across the Middle East, including Israel, which it threatens to annihilate,” the statement reads.

The cabinet’s statements refers to the talks between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany — the so-called P5+1 — taking place Tuesday and Wednesday in Geneva. The talks mark the first round of high-level negotiations since the June election of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, which has led to a limited but rapid rapprochement between the regime and the West. The détente, viewed skeptically in Jerusalem, culminated last month in a 15-minute phone call between Rouhani and US President Barack Obama, the first conversation on such a level since before Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Iran says it is willing to talk about reducing the rate of enrichment but has ruled out the removal of its uranium stockpile. US President Barack Obama told Netanyahu he would be “clear-eyed” in the US’s engagement with Tehran but made plain his hope that the nuclear standoff could be resolved diplomatically and in the near future. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the White House is considering an agreement that would allow Iran the right to maintain uranium-enrichment facilities on its territory, a possible compromise Jerusalem vehemently rejects.

“These negotiations begin at a time when the Iranian regime is under great pressure because of the sanctions and is desperately trying to have them removed. Sanctions must not be eased when they are so close to achieving their intended purpose,” the security cabinet statement read.

“Now is an opportune moment to reach a genuine diplomatic solution that peacefully ends Iran’s nuclear weapons program. However, this opportunity can be realized only if the international community continues to put pressure on Iran and does not ease the sanctions prematurely. It would be a historic mistake not to take full advantage of the sanctions, by making concessions before ensuring the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

The statement reiterates Israel’s four demands to Iran laid out by Netanyahu in recent weeks: Cease all nuclear enrichment, remove already enriched uranium, dismantle the nuclear facilities in Qom and Natanz, and discontinue work at the plutonium-producing heavy water reactor in Arak.

“Unfortunately, we have seen no evidence that Iran is willing to accept such a solution. On the contrary, Iran continues to enrich uranium without letting up,” the statement read.

The ministers also declared that Jerusalem does not oppose Iran having a peaceful nuclear energy program, but insists that a peaceful program does not require the uranium enrichment or plutonium production. “Iran’s nuclear weapons program does,” the cabinet stated.

read more: