Most Israelis believe interim Iran deal endangers them

Poll also shows large majority consider Netanyahu’s criticism of Obama administration over Geneva accord to be justified

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama at the UN, September 2012 (photo credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama at the UN, September 2012 (photo credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

A large majority of Israelis believe the interim accord signed by world powers with Iran on Sunday endangers Israel, and a similar majority of Israelis consider Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s withering public criticism of the Obama administration over its handling of the issue to be justified, an opinion poll found Tuesday.

Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama have been publicly sniping over the terms of the accord this week, with Netanyahu on Sunday branding it a “historic mistake” and warning that “the most dangerous regime in the world took a meaningful step toward acquiring the most dangerous weapon in the world.” Obama on Monday hit back by deriding opponents’ “tough talk and bluster” and asserting that the deal is “good for the United States, it’s good for our allies, it’s good for Israel.”

The six-month pact signed early Sunday rolls back some sanctions on Iran in return for limits on nuclear enrichment, the shuttering of certain sites and an agreement by Tehran to allow some international oversight.

Tuesday’s survey, reported on Israel’s Channel 2 news, found 60 percent of Israelis consider the interim deal “endangers Israel,” as compared to 25% who do not, and 15% who had no opinion.

The same survey found 58% of Israelis believe Netanyahu’s criticism of the Obama administration over the accord is “justified,” while 28% consider the criticism “exaggerated” and 14% have no opinion. (The survey was conducted among 401 Israelis; no margin of error was provided.)

Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel did not consider itself bound by the terms of the accord, which he called “a bad deal. It reduces pressure on Iran without receiving anything tangible in return.”

Asked how the US might respond to any Israeli decision to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Tuesday night that the US had always recognized Israel’s right to “take its own decisions” as regards its security, but believed in the imperative to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program if possible. He stressed that all options remained on the table should the diplomatic avenue fail.

The interim accord allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium to 3.5%, but bars enrichment to 20%. Asked whether the permanent accord, to be negotiated by the world powers with Iran over the next six months, might similarly allow Tehran to enrich uranium — a “right” that Iran is insisting upon — Rhodes said it might, provided that Iran met all of the international community’s concerns over its program. “There could be a limited enrichment capacity,” he said.

Netanyahu has demanded that Iran be stripped of its entire capacity to enrich uranium, and all other aspects of what he terms its “military nuclear” infrastructure.

The prime minister on Monday announced that he was dispatching his national security adviser to Washington to discuss the particulars of the permanent agreement with Iran. That permanent deal, he said, must ensure “the dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear capability.”

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