Top Israeli ministers harshly criticized the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers early Sunday, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman saying the agreement had shifted the status quo in the Middle East.
“This brings us to a new reality in the whole Middle East, including the Saudis. This isn’t just our worry,” he told Israel Radio. “We’ve found ourselves in a completely new situation.”
When asked if this would lead to an Israeli military strike on Iran, Liberman said Israel “would need to make different decisions.”
Home Front Command Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that it would now be more difficult for Israel to act for the duration of the six-month agreement.
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, said there was no reason for the world to be celebrating. He said the deal, reached in Geneva early Sunday, is based on “Iranian deception and [Western] self-delusion.”
“Just like the failed deal with North Korea, the current deal can actually bring Iran closer to the bomb,” Steinitz said. “Israel cannot take part in the international celebrations based on Iranian deception and self-delusion.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to discuss the matter with his cabinet later Sunday. He was also expected to speak by phone with US President Barack Obama, Reuters reported.
An unnamed source in the Prime Minister’s Office called the agreement a “bad deal that gives Iran exactly what it wants.”
The deal, announced early Sunday morning, limits continued Iranian enrichment of uranium to 5 percent in exchange for eased sanctions.
A senior Obama administration official said that the West had not conceded an Iranian right to produce nuclear fuel through uranium enrichment, a key sticking point in previous negotiations.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the deal did recognize Iran’s right to enrich, an assessment Liberman agreed with.
The White House official said the deal included an agreement that Iran would halt progress on its nuclear program, including a plutonium reactor at the Arak facility. The deal also calls on Iran to neutralize its 20-percent-enriched uranium stockpiles. Tehran has also agreed to intrusive inspections under the terms of the deal.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the final negotiations along with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, said the pact will make US allies in the Middle East, including Israel, safer reducing the threat of war.
Speaking after the deal was signed, though, Obama acknowledged that it may be difficult for some of Washington’s allies in the Middle East to trust Iran’s intentions, saying Israel and the Gulf countries “have good reasons to be skeptical.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) wrote on Facebook that American attempts to calm Israel would only worry him more.
“There is no doubt that the agreement exposes differences, not just tactical but also strategic, between us and between the West and the US.”
However, Liberman slammed the deal as not going far enough, since it does not dismantle the nuclear facilities.
“They have enough uranium to make a few bombs already,” he said.
Economics Minister Naftali Bennett called the deal “bad, very bad.”
“If a nuclear suitcase blows up five years from now in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning,” he said on Facebook. “There is still a long campaign ahead of us. We will continue to act in every possible way.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid panned the interim agreement and said Israel would have to work to make sure a final deal had better terms.
“This is a bad deal that does not bring even one centrifuge to a halt. I am worried not only over the deal, but that we have lost the world’s attention.”
“Those that support this agreement only say one good thing about it, and that’s that we win time en route to a final agreement,” Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin told Channel 2 TV. “Our main activity is now directed at a very clear destination — what will be in the final agreement.”