National Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday slammed remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who over the weekend dismissed as “fantasy” the claim — raised by Israel and domestic US critics — that it was possible to have penned a better nuclear deal than the one signed by world powers and Iran last week.
“To the best of our professional assessment, these remarks are baseless,” Steinitz, who is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s point man on the Iranian nuclear threat, told Army Radio on Sunday.
“One can easily think of a better agreement in which, as is the international practice in such cases, Iran must reveal everything it has done in the past and not simply answer questions of procedure, which really ignores the issue,” he said.
Speaking on US television Friday, Kerry insisted that Israel that “will be safer” under the terms of the nuclear deal, and that the concept of a more stringent nuclear deal was unrealistic.
Kerry said that Netanyahu and other detractors of the deal had not offered an alternative, and promised to increase US support to Israel and America’s other Mideast allies.
“American security cooperation and help will only increase,” he promised. “President [Barack] Obama is prepared to upgrade that,” he told PBS.
Obama, he said, would be willing “to work to do more to be able to address specific concerns” Israel has over the details of the agreement, intended to curb Iran’s nuclear drive in exchange for sanctions relief.
“But we still believe that Israel will be safer with a one-year breakout [to a nuclear weapon] for the ten years [of restrictions stipulated by the deal], than two months,” Kerry said. The assessment that it would currently take two months for Iran to “break out” to a nuclear weapon is based on many Western intelligence estimates.
Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog, Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid and other political leaders have slammed the deal, which leaves much of Iran’s enrichment infrastructure and offensive missile programs intact, and, they say, depends on trusting the Iranian regime to adhere to the agreement despite a long record of breaking previous promises.
Those worries are shared by many US lawmakers working to pass congressional resolutions and bills that might stymie the deal, or at least curtail America’s implementation of its part of the agreement.
“Now there’s no alternative being provided by all these other people,” Kerry charged.
“There’s a lot of fantasy out there about this – quote – ‘better deal.’ The fact is we spent four years putting together an agreement that had the consent of Russia, China, France, Germany, Great Britain and Iran. That is not easy, and I believe the agreement we got will withstand scrutiny and deliver an Iran that cannot get a nuclear weapon,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter was scheduled to arrive in Israel late Sunday to discuss the deal and American help in countering Iranian actions in the region. He will also visit Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states sharing similar concerns over the regional repercussions of the agreement.
Kerry will follow him to the region a week later, meeting with Israeli officials as well as Persian Gulf Arab leaders in Doha.
AP contributed to this report.