Netanyahu says Israel opposes nuclear ‘mini-agreements’ with Iran

PM’s comments at cabinet meeting come amid mounting reports of advanced negotiations between Washington and Tehran

In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours Israel Aerospace Industries headquarters, June 18, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
In this handout photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours Israel Aerospace Industries headquarters, June 18, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Israel opposes any interim agreement between the US and Iran regarding the latter’s nuclear program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting Sunday.

“Our most important mission is to curb Iran’s nuclear program,” Netanyahu said in the wake of reports of an impending understanding between the US and Iran.

“First of all, [we oppose] the original agreement,” Netanyahu said of the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of in 2018. “Our principled opposition contributes to the fact that the US isn’t returning to the [JCPOA].

“We also tell [the US] that even… ‘mini agreements,’ in our opinion, do not serve our goals, and we oppose those as well.”

Netanyahu repeated similar messages in remarks Sunday evening during a visit to the Israel Aerospace Industries, saying the emerging understandings “are unacceptable to us.”

Last week, Iran said it was conducting indirect negotiations with the United States through the Sultanate of Oman, with nuclear issues, US sanctions and detainees on the agenda.

There have been multiple reports indicating the deal is moving forward and that Israel will accept the general parameters of the potential agreement, however.

The agreement would reportedly see Tehran pledge not to enrich uranium beyond its current level of 60 percent purity, cooperate with nuclear inspectors from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stop its proxy terror groups from attacking US contractors in Iraq and Syria, avoid providing Russia with ballistic missiles and release three American-Iranians held in the Islamic Republic.

In return, Washington would promise not to tighten its existing economic sanctions, unfreeze billions in Iranian assets held abroad alongside assurances that the money will only be used for humanitarian purposes, and not pursue punitive resolutions against the Islamic Republic at the United Nations or at the IAEA, The New York Times reported last week.

The United States is not going so far as to call the understanding with Iran an official agreement as that would require congressional approval, the report said.

In a report Friday, the Haaretz daily said that the US had been updating Israel on the emerging understandings and that Jerusalem was not trying to foil the talks.

According to the report, the US has assured Israel that it will maintain its security edge and freedom to act against Iran.

That echoed similar remarks from Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog.

“Diplomacy isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” Herzog said during an event hosted by the Democratic Majority For Israel, according to Haaretz.

“As far as we’re concerned, diplomacy in and of itself, and such understandings, are not necessarily bad to the extent that they can help deescalate a situation,” Herzog said.

Some of the understandings between Israel and the US regarding the emerging Iran agreement were worked out during a Thursday meeting between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Channel 12 news reported.

A senior security official told the network that cooperation had increased between Israel and the US on the issue of Iran, and that the joint work involved security officials and the Israel Defense Forces.

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