Israel says optimism over framework agreement with Iran is ‘detached from wretched reality’

Negotiators from China, Germany and Russia at the P5+1 talksNegotiators from China, Germany and Russia at the P5+1 talks

Israeli officials strongly criticised the framework nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran announced Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, calling it a “bad framework agreement that will lead to a bad and dangerous deal.”

The announcement, which follows eight days of negotiations in the Beau Séjour hotel, was made in a joint statement by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The statement speaks of “solutions on key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” that will be completed by technical details by June 30th. Mogherini called the agreement a “decisive step” in limiting Iran’s enrichment capacity and stockpile, which would provide Iran with sanctions relief in return.

Media in Lausanne noted the fact that the deal was announced by the EU representative and her Iranian counterpart, and not along with the entire P5+1 or E3+3 countries (China, France,Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States), and the fact that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Zarif did not take to the same stage together, but gave sequential briefings instead.

The joint statement reads, “Iran’s enrichment capacity, enrichment level and stockpile will be limited to specified durations and there will be no other enrichment facility than Natanz. Iran’s research and development on centrifuges will be carried out on a scope and schedule that has been mutually agreed.”

An important point of the agreement states that “the EU will terminate the implementation of all nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions (against Iran) and the US will cease the application of al nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions, simultaneously with the IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of its key nuclear commitments.”

Unconvinced by President Obama’s guarantees that this “historic” deal “would cut off every path” to Iran, developing the bomb, the Israelis view the agreement as a Western capitulation to Iranian dictates, and said, in the end, “it will not lead to a peaceful nuclear program, instead to a military nuclear program.”

Israel’s Minister of Strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netantahu, said that “the smiles in Lausanne,” and the optimism over the deal was “detached from the wretched reality in which Iran refuses to make any concession on the nuclear issue and continues to threaten Israel and all other countries in the Middle East.”

In response to President Obama’s assertion that the agreement would make the world a safer place, Israeli officials in Jerusalem noted that if a final deal “is reached on the basis of this framework, it would be a historic mistake that would make the world much more dangerous.”

The Israeli officials voiced their fears that the framework agreement “gives international legitimacy to Iran’s nuclear program, the main goal of which is simply and only to produce a nuclear weapon.” They added that the framework would leave Iran, “with an extensive nuclear capability. It will continue to enrich uranium, it will continue to research and develop centrifuges, and it will not shut down even one of its nuclear facilities, particularly its underground facility at Fordow.”

Israel’s fear appear to be confirmed as in his press conference on Thursday, the Iranian Foreign Minister reiterated Iran’s positions, namely, that none of its facilities would be closed, nuclear research and development would continue, enrichment would continue, and that the heavy water reactor at Arak would be modernized.

Another worry in Jerusalem, “is that this deal guarantees to Iran the complete removal of the anti-nuclear sanctions, as part of a guarantee that Iran will be allowed to preserve its nuclear capability.”

Officials in Jerusalem emphasize that the deal would not “require Iran to stop its aggression in the region, its terrorism worldwide, and its threats to destroy Israel, something the Iranians repeatedly emphasized even in the last few days.”

In a phone call to US president Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Iranian nuclear deal framework could put Israel’s future at risk if it was to be implemented.

In the discussion, Netanyahu was said to have reminded Obama about recent comments by an Iranian senior military official that ” the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable.”

“In these fateful days Iran is accelerating the arming of its terror proxies to attack Israel,” Netanyahu said in the call.

“This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy and  increase Iran’s aggression and terror,” Netanyahu said, adding that the deal makes Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb easier. “The alternative is standing firm and increasing the pressure on Iran until a better deal is achieved.”

Under the agreement, Iran would be allowed to keep what one former Obama administration official has called its “plutonium bomb factory,” and in 10 years, build as many heavy water reactors as it wants. There is no purpose for plutonium other than nuclear weapons.

Tehran would delay disclosure of its past military nuclear work until after sanctions relief has been granted, a concession that according to experts would gut the ability to know if Iran is cheating and prevent any effective inspection and verification regime.

Iran will be able to continue spinning centrifuges in its underground Revolutionary Guard enrichment underground bunker of Fordow and conduct advanced centrifuge R&D without violating the agreement. Fordow is built into the side of a mountain, which the Iranians emptied and made into an illicit enrichment facility. The assumption had always been that the Iranians would have to close it under any reasonable deal.

The Iranians would be able to deny immediate anytime, anywhere access to facilities nuclear inspectors want to visit and they are not required to ship their enriched uranium out of the country.

Even before the press conference in Lausanne where the announcement was made, the Prime Minister’s Office posted the following message on Twitter: “Any deal must significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression.”

The tweet was posted above a map with arrows leading from Tehran to Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq under the headline, “Iran’s aggression during the nuclear negotiations.”

Steinitz stressed that Israel “will continue in its efforts to explain and convince the world in the hopes of preventing a bad deal, or at least introducing changes and improvements.”


‘Israel has definitely not taken the military option off the table’

Even before the parameters were presented, Steinitz joined senior Israeli officials who in recent days began speaking about the possibility of an Israeli military action, after months in which the idea had not been spoken about publicly.

Asked on Israel Radio whether Jerusalem would consider a military operation even against US opposition, Steinitz said, “If we have no choice, we have no choice.”

Netanyahu has hinted in recent days that Israel would not feel bound by any agreement eventually signed, but Steinitz’s words were the most explicit in a while that Israel had definitely not taken the military option “off the table.”

“I don’t want to talk about a military option, other than to say that it exists,”he said.

“I just want to say one thing, when we had no choice and needed to attack and destroy the reactor in Iraq (in 1981), that was against the US position.”

“When talking about our national security,” Steinitz continued, “it is our responsibility and duty to defend the state, and if the world has other ideas or illusions or agreements that do not ensure our security, we will need to weigh very carefully what to do.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with Israel Hayom, Maj.-Gen. Nimrod Sheffer, who heads the IDF Planning Directorate, said when asked whether he could imagine a situation where Israel would bomb Iran against US wishes, that “since it happened in the past, I have no reason to believe it won’t happen again.”

“If ultimately an agreement is in fact signed, we will have to ask ourselves, “Okay, what are we going to do with this?” he said. If someone builds a bomb and at the same time declares that Israel has no right to exist, we have to think about how to respond.”

If Israel feels its existence depends on taking action, it will do so, Sheffer said.