Netanyahu dispatching big guns to US as Iran deal battle heats up

PM vowing to go ‘all the way’ in lobbying against nuclear accord, but stresses he isn’t against administration, according to TV report

Dore Gold (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Dore Gold (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold and former IDF military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin will travel to the US on Tuesday to brief Jewish organizations on the Iran nuclear deal, as Jerusalem gears up to fight the accord in Washington.

Gold will brief the US Jewish umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations in New York.

According to Israeli news station Channel 2, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to “go all the way” in protesting the Iran nuclear deal in the US, despite the low prospects of Congress derailing the accord.

In deciding on a full-on attack against the deal rather than a quieter campaign, the prime minister is risking further alienating US President Barack Obama, who may be forced to use his veto to protect the deal.

Netanyahu’s approach is to stress that he is not opposed to the Obama administration, but merely to the deal, according to the report.

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer briefed Republican leaders on Israel’s objections to the Iran nuclear deal on Monday, the TV report said.

Earlier, sources in Jerusalem said Netanyahu was planning to speak at the UN General Assembly in September.

Netanyahu’s speech will likely focus on the nuclear deal brokered between world powers and Iran earlier this month, which he has lobbied against.

The General Assembly, in mid-September, will fall just as a deadline for a congressional review of the Iran deal comes up. Jerusalem has been counting on US lawmakers to vote down the deal as a last-ditch bid to quash the measure.

It’s unclear if Netanyahu’s trip to the US will include a visit to Congress or the White House. A trip to the US in March to lobby against the deal in Congress was denounced by the White House and led to a nadir in ties between Netanyahu and Obama.

On Monday, US Rep. Eliot Engel told the Washington Post it was unlikely that enough Democratic lawmakers would go against the deal to override Obama’s veto.

“I think it’s difficult, but not impossible, to override a veto,” Engel said. “There will be pressure on Democrats to sustain the president’s veto.”

As part of the Obama administration’s current campaign to push the Iran nuclear deal signed July 14 in Vienna, US Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Friday that should Congress vote against the agreement, “our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated, and more blamed.”

The statement was promptly rejected by the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, now a member of the centrist Kulanu party.

“If American legislators reject the nuclear deal, they will do so exclusively on the basis of US interests. The threat of the secretary of state who, in the past, warned that Israel was in danger of becoming an apartheid state, cannot deter us from fulfilling our national duty to oppose this dangerous deal,” Oren said in a statement.

Similarly, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, the government’s point man on Iran, dismissed Kerry’s warning.

“Israel will make its views clear on the Iranian nuclear issue, which is relevant to its security and its existence, and no one has the authority to intimidate us [on the matter],” Steinitz said according to the Walla news site.

Adiv Sterman, AP contributed to this report.

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