The newly finalized agreement between Iran and world powers to curb the former’s nuclear program is a “failure of diplomacy” that allows Iran to avoid choosing between nuclear capability and economic growth, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Jerusalem on Thursday.
The prime minister said that the agreement threatens Israel’s existence and regional peace and security. “It lifts the sanctions today and paves a path to the bomb tomorrow,” Netanyahu said.
Meeting a day after Hammond slammed Netanyahu for his outspoken opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, the two discussed the terms of an agreement branded by Netanyahu as a “historic mistake.”
Britain is one of the six world powers — along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — that struck the deal with Iran after a 13-year standoff over its disputed nuclear program.
Hammond, who came to Israel in an effort to reassure Netanyahu that Tuesday’s deal was in Israel’s best interest, told a joint press conference that “robust measures” would ensure its success.
“We would not have agreed to the deal unless we were sure we had robust measures in place to deliver effective oversight of Iran’s nuclear program,” Hammond said.
Netanyahu called it “perplexing” that the deal does not address Iran’s calls to annihilate Israel.
Hammond said he understood Netanyahu’s concerns, but added “We have always been clear that this deal was about the nuclear file.”
He said Iran’s “regional conduct” will “have to be dealt with in the months and years to come,” telling Netanyahu “We are not naive about this.”
On Wednesday, Hammond told the British parliament that Israel wanted a “permanent standoff” with Iran and would not have been satisfied with any agreement.
“The question you have to ask yourself is what kind of a deal would have been welcomed in Tel Aviv. The answer of course is that Israel doesn’t want any deal with Iran,” Hammond told lawmakers. “Israel wants a permanent state of standoff, and I don’t believe that’s in the interests of the region. I don’t believe it’s in our interest.”
In response, Netanyahu asserted Thursday at a joint press conference with Hammond that Israel would have welcomed a deal that would “compel Iran to choose between a path to the bomb and sanctions relief.”
“That’s the kind of deal that would be welcomed in Tel Aviv and here in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said, pointedly referencing Hammond’s House of Commons mention of the Israeli government as “Tel Aviv.”
Netanyahu said the agreement would enable Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon whether it broke or kept to its terms. In order to realize its nuclear ambitions, Netanyahu said, Tehran could either cheat and overcome the “porous inspections mechanism,” or wait out the 10-year period capping uranium enrichment, after which it could achieve the necessary technology to develop nuclear arms.
“This [waiting period] will able Iran to have the capacity to produce the enriched uranium for an entire nuclear arsenal with zero breakout time,” he said.
In the meantime, Netanyahu said, the immediate economic sanctions relief awarded to Iran under the agreement would inject billions of dollars of revenue into its economy which would be used to finance terrorism in the region.
“The alternative to this bad deal is not war,” he said, alluding to remarks by President Barack Obama on Wednesday. “The alternative is a better deal that would roll back Iran’s military nuclear program and tie the easing of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to changes in Iran’s behavior.”
AP contributed to this report.