Netanyahu: Iran deal insubstantial ‘political theater’

Unnamed Israeli officials pan Obama’s lack of ‘political stomach’ for addressing nuclear program; PM urges Western powers not to compromise on demands

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reviews the honor guard during an intergovernmental summit with Italian Premier Enrico Letta in Rome, Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. (Photo credit: AP/Gregorio Borgia)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reviews the honor guard during an intergovernmental summit with Italian Premier Enrico Letta in Rome, Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. (Photo credit: AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Nuclear negotiations that led to an interim deal with Iran last week were more political theater than substance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Rome on Monday, urging Western powers not to ease economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. 

At a press conference in the Italian capital, the prime minister again expressed strong opposition to the accord, urging European powers to demand a substantial rollback from Iran before agreeing to ease an effective sanctions regime. He warned that although Tehran, led by President Hassan Rouhani, presented a smiling face to the West, it continued to “butcher people in Syria, to promote terrorism” and to support Hezbollah and Hamas.

“Even though Iran has not even begun to implement the agreement, there appears to be a general relaxation of sanctions and a rush to accommodate Iran and to make it legitimate, as if Iran has changed anything of its actual policies except to smile, to speak English — on occasion — and to make Powerpoint presentations,” Netanyahu remarked. “What a revolution!”

Meanwhile, Jerusalem officials on Monday lashed out against President Barack Obama for wanting, they said, to reach an agreement with Iran in order finish his second term in office without getting bogged down in another conflict.

After anonymous US officials were quoted in the Israeli press saying that Netanyahu’s outspoken criticism of the interim deal with Iran was “weak and desperate,” unnamed officials in Jerusalem sniped back, saying Obama only cared about surviving the remaining three years in office.

“President Obama just wants to peacefully pass his remaining time until the end of his term. He doesn’t have the political stomach to grapple with Iran,” Channel 10 quoted “the Israeli leadership” as saying.
“Removal of the sanctions in the Geneva agreement will end the pressure on Iran,” the unnamed sources in Jerusalem said, according to the channel.

According to Ynet News, the officials suggested that American public opinion, weary of conflict after over a decade of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, dictates that the administration should focus on domestic and economic issues and put matters of foreign policy on the back burner.

Describing the upheaval-ridden Middle East as “a cauldron of instability,” Netanyahu said “a nuclear-armed ayatollah regime in Iran” would “topple the apple-cart” by tipping the region away from modernity, stability and “a better future for all of us” and into the hands of those who “reject modernity, reject pluralism, reject science, reject technology” and aim to plunge the region into “darkness.”

The prime minister warned that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons capabilities, it will be “a pivot of history” that will not only upset progress all over the Middle East, but also might endanger Europe and the world at large.

“This must be stopped,” Netanyahu asserted, adding that an end to sanctions against Iran would “mark the end of the possibility of reaching a peaceful resolution to the question of ending Iran’s military nuclear program.” 

“For that purpose, the sanctions regime and the demands have to be kept in place, and we should not be satisfied with political theater. We need substance,” he said.

“I know they don’t always speak up as we do, but believe me, when Israelis and Arabs speak together and speak in the same voice, it’s worthwhile for the world to listen,” he said.

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