Breaking ranks, former Shin Bet head praises Iran nuke deal

Ami Ayalon calls accord ‘best option’ in keeping Tehran from getting the bomb, but faults Obama for appearing weak

Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service called the Iranian nuclear accord, signed by the Islamic Republic and world powers last week, “the best option” when it comes to curbing Tehran’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

The comment from Ami Ayalon, who served as head of the internal intelligence agency in the 1990s, runs counter to near unanimous criticism of the deal among mainstream Israeli officials, who fear it will fail to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Ayalon was later a Labor MK. Labor’s current leader Isaac Herzog opposes the accord.

Defending the deal, Ayalon said it pushes Iran’s breakout time for a bomb to a year, as opposed to the two months it had to complete the bomb prior to signing the agreement. He spoke in an interview published Tuesday by US news website the Daily Beast.

Under the terms of the deal struck last week in Vienna after almost two years of negotiations, Iran has agreed to give the UN nuclear watchdog access to suspect sites, including military bases, as the world seeks to stop the Islamic Republic developing atomic arms.

“When it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option,” Ayalon said.

“When negotiations began, Iran was two months away from acquiring enough material for a [nuclear] bomb. Now it will be 12 months… Israelis are failing to distinguish between reducing Iran’s nuclear capability and Iran being the biggest devil in the Middle East,” he explained.

When the deal is implemented, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will notify Iran of a site they want to visit and Tehran has 14 days to comply.

If it refuses then there is a further 10-day delay to allow a joint commission to examine the case and order Iran to satisfy the IAEA’s concerns.

The 24-day period has come under fire from critics of the deal who say it will give Iran time to hide any incriminating evidence that it is covertly seeking nuclear weapons.

“I can assure you our intelligence community is completely comfortable that 24 days is not enough time for them to be able to evade our technical means, our capacity to observe,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“This deal actually pushes Iran further away from a bomb. And there’s a permanent prohibition on Iran ever having a nuclear weapon,” US President Barack Obama added in his weekly address on Saturday.

“We will have unprecedented, 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities,” Obama said.

But in the interview, Ayalon faulted Obama for appearing too gentle in his rhetoric. Obama “doesn’t have the right combination of the language of peace and the language of war. He has to make it very clear that while he believes in diplomacy, he also knows how to use force,” Ayalon said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed