By ISRAEL HAYOM—
“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement; it is a historic mistake,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday morning about the nuclear deal reached hours earlier between world powers and Iran. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
“For the first time, the world’s leading powers have agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran while ignoring the UN Security Council decisions that they themselves led,” Netanyahu said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “Sanctions that required many years to put in place contain the best chance for a peaceful solution. These sanctions have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be cancelled in weeks.”
“This agreement and what it means endangers many countries including, of course, Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
“As prime minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability,” Netanyahu declared.
Homefront Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, however, said the deal “makes it much more difficult, in the diplomatic sphere, to talk about a military option.”
Erdan told Army Radio that Israel would continue monitoring Iran’s activities and lobby for better terms in any final deal with Iran.
“We have six months now, and there are significant improvements that can be made in these six months,” Erdan said.
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office called the Geneva agreement a “bad deal.”
“This is a bad deal,” the official said. “It grants Iran exactly what it wanted — both a significant easing in sanctions and preservation of the most significant parts of its nuclear program.”
“The economic pressure on Iran could have brought about a much better deal which would have dismantled Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” the official said.
Aimed at ending the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, the agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was nailed down after more than four days of negotiations in Geneva.
The deal, however, fell far short of Netanyahu’s demand for a total rollback of the Iranian nuclear program.
“You stand and shout out until you’re blue in the face, and you try to understand why they’re not listening. The world wanted an agreement,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid told Army Radio.
“We also said that a diplomatic accord would be good. A diplomatic accord is certainly better than war, a diplomatic accord is better than a situation of permanent confrontation – just not this agreement,” Lapid added.
Lapid said Israel had to pore over the intricacies of the deal: “For example, we still don’t understand exactly what stepping up the monitoring (of Iran’s facilities) means. This is a detailed matter. God really is in the small details.”
In Washington, a senior American official said U.S. President Barack Obama would discuss Israel’s misgivings with Netanyahu on Sunday.
“Ultimately we understand and appreciate how Israel is particularly skeptical about Iran. Given the threats that have been made about Israel from Tehran we understand why Israel will want to make sure that this is the best deal possible,” the U.S. official said.
“I would say that what we have now is a six-month period to test whether the new leadership in Iran continues to follow through their commitment to move Iran on a new path. What we will know after six months is whether there can be a solution,” the official said.
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel could act unilaterally.
“Israel does not see itself as bound by this bad, this very bad agreement that has been signed,” Bennett told Army Radio. “If the State of Israel sees that Iran is endangering it, the State of Israel is permitted to defend itself and is capable of defending itself.”
But he hedged when asked whether Israel might attack Iran even as world powers tried to hammer down a permanent nuclear deal with Iran in the coming months, saying: “Israel is not keen to jump ahead on this matter. The nuclear problem is the whole world’s problem.”
“If in five years a nuclear suitcase explodes in Manhattan or Madrid, it will be because of the agreement that was signed this morning,” Bennett said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Geneva deal was Iran’s “greatest diplomatic triumph” since its 1979 Islamic revolution, and predicted an arms race could result among Sunni Arabs who also feel wary of the Persian Shiites.
The Israeli government would conduct a strategic review of its options, Lieberman told Israel Radio.
Lieberman, however, played down any rift with the United States. Asked if he felt betrayed by the U.S., Israel’s most important ally, Lieberman said: “Heaven forbid.”
Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon called the deal “not a Western achievement, but rather a surrender to the Iranian smile and charm offensive and Iranian deceit, the goal of which is to buy time without its military nuclear program being harmed in any practical way.”
“The agreement is a historic mistake that allows Iran to join the family of nations despite it being the most active and flourishing terrorist enterprise in the world that uninhibitedly extends its deadly arms across the globe, primarily against Western nations, even as regime representatives sit at the table in Geneva,” Ya’alon said.
President Shimon Peres said the agreement would be judged by results, not by words.
“Like all nations, we also prefer a diplomatic solution over any other solution,” Peres said. “I want to mention the words of President Obama — a diplomatic solution is preferable, but if it does not succeed, the alternatives will be much worse and much more grave. I appeal to the Iranian people — we are not your enemies and you do not need to be our enemies. We never threatened you — why do you threaten us? There is no need for this.”
Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On welcomed the deal, saying it achieved “the important goal of rolling back quick and dangerous path to a .”
Saying Iran was the world’s problem, not just Israel’s, Gal-On called on Netanyahu to focus on “the more pressing” issue of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.