The bitter argument between Jerusalem and Washington over the terms of a possible deal with Iran escalated another notch on Saturday night, with a new batch of anonymous quotes from each side castigating and accusing the other of disseminating inaccurate information.
On Friday, two Israeli television stations quoted unnamed Jerusalem officials saying the Obama Administration was ready to agree to a deal that would leave Iran with thousands of centrifuges spinning — 6,500, according to Channel 2; over 7,000, according to Channel 10 — and thus capable of breaking out to a nuclear bomb within months.
On Saturday night, Channel 10 quoted “a very senior American official” saying the information was “nonsense, unfounded, not true.”
This American assertion, however, was immediately rejected by “very senior” sources in the Israeli government, who reiterated that the Obama administration has given in to “80% of Iran’s demands,” including by agreeing to let Iran keep 7,000 of its 9,000 centrifuges operational, and thus leaving Iran “only months from a breakout to enough [enriched] material for a bomb.”
Meanwhile, the centrist Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid linked Saturday’s reports revealing the CIA’s role in the killing of Hezbollah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh to the crisis in Israel-US ties. Lapid was fired by Benjamin Netanyahu last month as finance minister as the prime minister triggered new elections for March 17. He has repeatedly warned that Netanyahu is deeply damaging Israel-US ties by publicly clashing with President Barack Obama, including by insisting on speaking to Congress on March 3 against the looming potential Iran deal on a visit that the White House says was not arranged via the correct protocol. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet Netanyahu on the trip, ostensibly because of its proximity to the Israeli elections.
Lapid said the Obama administration deliberately timed the leak of the Mughniyeh story — detailing how American and Israeli intelligence teams worked closely to eliminate the Hezbollah terrorist commander in a Damascus car bombing in 2008 — to underline that “when you mess with us,” you risk such critical cooperation and thus “undermine some of your security.”
Israel’s Channel 10 news said Friday that the deal taking shape between the P5+1 countries and Tehran would allow Iran to continue enriching uranium in “over 7,000” centrifuges. It quoted unnamed Jerusalem sources saying the terms of the deal would leave Iran “closer than was thought” to nuclear weapons, “mere months from producing enough material for a bomb,” and that the US has agreed to 80% of Iran’s demands.
A similar report on Channel 2 news Friday said the US was ready for Iran to keep enriching uranium in 6,500 of its 9,000 centrifuges. It also said that the US was proposing “a time limit” on the deal — possibly of 10 or 15 years — after which “Iran will be free to continue a nuclear industry.”
Netanyahu was said to have indicated to confidants that he feels he has “no choice” but to speak out against the imminent deal, including on March 3 to Congress, Channel 10 said. Netanyahu does not intend to speak against Obama, or to give a partisan address, or to focus overly on sanctions, but rather to talk strongly against the deal, the report said.
Warned that his March 3 visit and Congress appearance may harm Congressional efforts to prevent a poor deal with Iran, Netanyahu was said to be unmoved, the Channel 10 report claimed.