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Israel Rejects, UN Hails Nuclear Deal

  • VOA News

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, July 14, 2015.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, July 14, 2015.

The news that major world powers and Iran reached a historic deal aimed at ensuring that Iran does not obtain the nuclear bomb was met with condemnation by Israel but hailed by the United Nations and Tehran's regional neighbors.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Tuesday's nuclear deal with Iran "stunning historic mistake."

Netanyahu, speaking in English to reporters in Jerusalem said his country is not bound by the international nuclear pact with Iran and that Israel reserves the right to defend itself.

"Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran, and Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction," Netanyahu told reporters.

Israel's first course of action looks to be an intense lobbying effort in the U.S. Congress to oppose the deal.

By late Tuesday, Saudi Arabia did not commented publicly on the deal.

However, one official, who spoke anonymously to Reuters, said if the nuclear deal allowed Iran to "wreak havoc in the region," the overall Middle East would be more dangerous than it already is.

'Historic agreement'

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated negotiators in Vienna on finalizing an agreement in a statement Tuesday.

"I warmly welcome the historic agreement in Vienna today and congratulate the P5+1 and Iran for reaching this agreement. This is testament to the value of dialogue," Ban said in the statement.

"I hope – and indeed believe – that this agreement will lead to greater mutual understanding and cooperation on the many serious security challenges in the Middle East. As such it could serve as a vital contribution to peace and stability both in the region and beyond," the statement said.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin said, with the nuclear agreement, the world can breathe a sigh of relief, and that the negotiating countries made hard choices for stability and cooperation. The European Union hailed it as a new chapter of hope for the world.

Regional governments

The ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, sent a note of congratulations to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani Tuesday, the UAE's official news agency WAM reported.

The statement contained the first official comment by Gulf Arab countries toward a deal many of them privately fear will encourage Iran to back their enemies across the Middle East more forcefully.

The governments of Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan released statements welcoming the agreement.

The spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the nuclear deal will be "a catalyst for regional stability."

Saad al-Hadithi said the agreement, designed to avert the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, is "an important step" and will lead to better unity in the fight against terrorism.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a statement, "welcomed any efforts that result in expansion of political and economic relations between states as well as consolidation and strengthening of peace and stability in the region."

Pakistan, in a statement, said it "has consistently maintained that the Iran nuclear issue should be peacefully resolved through dialogue. As a neighboring country, we have also reiterated that reciprocal confidence-building measures relating to Iran’s nuclear program auger well for peace and security in our region."

Pakistani defense analyst Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general, told Islamabad PTV News the agreement "will bring an extraordinary change. Its positive effects will include improvement in relations between Iran and the Western world, particularly the United States, and gradual lifting of the sanctions imposed on it.

"Moreover ... it is also likely to change the balance of power between Iran and the Arab countries in the Middle East, something Iran has been striving for," Masood said.

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has received military and financial support during from Tehran during its four-year civil war, praised the agreement.

Egypt's foreign ministry calls the deal an important development that could lead to regional stability and head off an arms race. Egypt and Iran have not had full diplomatic ties since 1979 when Iran had its Islamic revolution and Cairo signed a peace deal with Israel.

Widely criticized in Israel

However, reaction was critical across the political spectrum in Israel, where concern is high the country's arch enemy has duped the world and will acquire nuclear weapons to use against Israel.

Iran already backs militant groups that attack Israel and its leaders frequently have referred to Israel's destruction in the past.

Netanyahu has been at the forefront of global opposition to the deal and has openly clashed with the Obama administration and other Western powers that have been pushing for an easing of sanctions in return for greater restrictions on its nuclear program.

Speaking in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Israel’s "concern is that the militant Islamic state of Iran is going to receive a short path to nuclear weapons.

"Many of the restrictions that were supposed to prevent it from getting there will be lifted. And, in addition, Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza, of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world," he added.

He concluded by saying Israel would continue to have to defend its way of life, freedoms and security.

Israel received an official copy of the Iran nuclear agreement Tuesday, according to the Haaretz website.

'Lies and deceit'

On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told The Jerusalem Post that the agreement was built on "lies and deceit."

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Israel "will employ all diplomatic means to prevent confirmation of the agreement."

Netanyahu's coalition partners angrily criticized Tuesday's agreement.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the hawkish Jewish Home party, said July 14 will be remembered a "dark day for the free world."

Cabinet Minister Miri Regev said the agreement gave Iran a "license to kill."

The cascade of criticism crossed party lines, reflecting the widespread opposition to the deal in Israel.

"This is a regime based in deceit, and now they are going to do what they did for the last 20 years, which is trying to get themselves nuclear weapons behind the back of the world," Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition Yesh Atid Party, told The Associated Press. "Now they are going to do it with the help of the international community."

'Nuclear route'

At Tel Aviv's Institute for National Security Studies, Emily Landau, the head of its arms control and regional security program said Tuesday that "if there's a sense in the region that the international actors ... have not provided mechanisms for preventing [Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons], then definitely there will be additional motivation in the region to go down the nuclear route."

Noting that acquiring nuclear weapons capability is "irreversible," she added that the "sunset provision" allowing the agreement to expire after some years would allow Iran eventually to pursue legally a nuclear weapons program.

Finally, Landau said the accord “does not change the Iranian narrative,” which is to expand its status and influence across and beyond the Middle East.

VOA's Scott Bobb contributed to this report from Jerusalem. Additional material came from AP, Reuters and AFP.

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