Netanyahu calls Iran deal ‘historic mistake for world’

Lawmakers across the spectrum bemoan pact while opposition leaders also pan PM’s ‘ineffective’ handling of the crisis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press press conference in Jerusalem on July 14, 2015. Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press press conference in Jerusalem on July 14, 2015. Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Israeli lawmakers voiced strong opposition to a landmark nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers Tuesday morning, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning the agreement was “a historic mistake.”

Criticism of the deal came from both sides of Israel’s political spectrum as the pact, long feared in Israel as paving Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, was clinched by the sides after years of talks.

“From the initial reports we can already conclude that this agreement is an historic mistake for the world,” Netanyahu said at the start of a meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders. “Far-reaching concessions have been made in all areas that were supposed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability.”

Echoing comments he made a day earlier, Netanyahu said the agreement was inevitable when the US was willing to cave to Iranian demands even as Tehran officials led public calls of “Death to America.”

“I would like to say here and now – when you are willing to make an agreement at any cost, this is the result.”

Netanyahu, who has lobbied incessantly against the emerging agreement, said he never opposed the deal, but rather Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon.

“We knew very well that the desire to sign an agreement was stronger than anything, and therefore we did not commit to preventing an agreement. We did commit to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this commitment still stands,” he said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely slammed the deal as a “historic agreement of surrender by the West to the axis of evil led by Iran.”

“The implications of the agreement in the foreseeable future are very bad. Iran will continue sending terror cells in all directions, will continue to inflame the Middle East and worst of all – will take a huge step toward becoming a nuclear threshold state,” Hotovely said.

She said that Israel would use any diplomatic means necessary to prevent the confirmation of the agreement by the US Congress.

According to diplomats, the deal, which seeks to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief, will place limits on the amount of nuclear work Iran can do over the next 10 to 15 years in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.

It will still need to be ratified by Congress in Washington, and Israeli officials have indicated they will continue to fight for a stronger deal.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio the “details of the agreement matter little, so long as they [the Iranians] can ultimately acquire nuclear weapons.”

Erdan expressed hope that Congress would listen to Israel’s concerns and carefully scrutinize the agreement in the allotted 60 review period.

Netanyahu called on all Israeli leaders to set aside political differences and unite behind what he called the most fateful issue for Israel’s future and security.

Most opposition politicians, though slammed the prime minister’s handling of the US-led diplomatic initiative.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog said that had Netanyahu not feuded with the Obama administration, Israel would be receiving a military assistance package as “compensation” for the deal.

“If you go to a deal, as bad as it may be, the way to minimize its damage is by arriving at an agreement with the US on a very significant security package,” Herzog said, pointing to similar agreements negotiated by the US-aligned Sunni Gulf states. “Israel is avoiding doing this and is not negotiating with the US.”

Zionist Union co-chair Tzipi Livni lamented the fact that Israel had no influence on the terms of the deal. It is “a dramatic agreement, and Israel is not there,” she said.

“If anything is clear it is that Netanyahu is ineffective,” she said.

While criticizing the deal, opposition politicians seemed to rule out working with the coalition to thwart it.

“The Labor Party must not be a partner to the attempts to circumvent the US administration by way of Congress. It has become undoubtedly clear that the bitter confrontation with the Americans was an utter failure that will be taught in history books,” said Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Former foreign minister and Yisrael Beytenu MK Avigdor Liberman, also in the opposition, likened the deal to the infamous 1938 agreement that appeased Nazi Germany and the US’s nuclear disarmament agreement with North Korea.

The deal to be announced in Vienna Tuesday is a “complete capitulation to terrorism,” he said.

“A black flag waves over this agreement and it will be remembered as a black day for the free world,” Liberman added.

Calling the deal a danger for the entire free world, Technology Minister Danny Danon said the money the agreement will bring Iran will “fuel terrorism in the streets of Jerusalem, Washington and London.” The Likud lawmaker called on Israel’s allies to reject the agreement.

Likud Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin lambasted what he called “a very bad agreement, setting a path that in ten years will allow Iran to have a large arsenal of nuclear weapons with the approval and consent of world powers.”

Levin said the agreement would enable Tehran to continue its support of terrorism across the region.

Likud Minister Miri Regev said the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers gives the Islamic Republic a “license to kill.”

Regev called the deal “bad for the free world (and) bad for humanity,” and said lobbying against the deal reached in Vienna should continue.

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