US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday strongly derided Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his strident criticism of the Iran nuclear deal, terming it “way over the top.”
The comments came as the White House announced that US Defense Secretary Ashton Cater will visit Israel next week.
The top US diplomat also denied that world powers had capitulated to Iran’s demands as the prime minister has charged, adding cryptically that Netanyahu could not have been aware of the concessions that the US did not make.
“He said the same thing about the interim agreement and he was wrong,” Kerry told NBC News, when responding to Netanyahu’s charge that the deal is a historic mistake. “The fact is that he’s frankly been making comments that are way over the top. He doesn’t even know what the concessions are that we have not engaged in, because we haven’t made concessions.”
Kerry insisted “Israel is safer” as a result of the deal, and claimed that the accord is “under attack by people who really don’t know the terms of the agreement.
“What the critics of this plan never offer… is a realistic alternative,” Kerry continued. “It’s wrong for people to think this doesn’t have long-term accountability.”
Quoting a US source, Channel 2 reported that in Washington “nobody pays any heed to Netanyahu’s declarations, nobody is listening to him.”
Speaking with the prime minister on the phone on Tuesday night, US President Barack Obama said the freshly sealed Iran nuclear deal was in Israel’s “national security interest.”
“The president told the prime minister that today’s agreement on the nuclear issue will not diminish our concerns regarding Iran’s support for terrorism and threats toward Israel,” the White House said in a statement.
Netanyahu, for his part, “emphasized that the deal raises two main dangers: It will allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons — if it keeps to the deal, at the end of the 10-15 years; if it breaks it, before then,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Earlier, Netanyahu slammed the world powers’ nuclear deal with Iran as a “stunning historic mistake,” while maintaining that Israel was under no obligation to adhere to it.
“Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves,” he told foreign media reporters in Jerusalem.
The prime minister lashed out at world powers for easing sanctions against the Islamic Republic without requiring it to cease support for militant movements in the region, and for not requiring Tehran to dismantle its facilities as part of the agreement.
“By not dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, in a decade this deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorism regime the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs; in fact an entire nuclear arsenal, with the means to deliver it,” he said. “What a stunning historic mistake.”
Netanyahu said world powers were “gambling” that Iran would change in the coming decade, “while removing any incentive to do so.”
The deal “will reward Iran… with hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said. This “cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region, and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing.”
AFP contributed to this report.