News / Middle East

Israel Urges Tough Line on Iran Nuclear Deal

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday pressed world powers to take a hard line with Iran in negotiations for a final nuclear deal, urging them to demand that Tehran abandon all uranium enrichment, halt its ballistic missile program and end a “genocidal” anti-Israel policy.

One day after President Barack Obama deemed it unrealistic to believe Iran could be compelled to dismantle its entire nuclear infrastructure, Netanyahu said Tehran should have to take apart all centrifuges used to refine uranium, despite its insistence it would never agree to do so.

Netanyahu, deeply skeptical over an interim six-month deal reached with Iran in Geneva in late November, also suggested that the imposition of new sanctions could help the West secure a “better deal” in the next round of negotiations. Obama has urged Congress against further punitive measures for now.

While delivering a pointed rebuttal to some of Obama's arguments on Iran, Netanyahu took pains to avoid any new diplomatic clash with the U.S. president. He instead played down their differences and lauded the recently strained U.S.-Israeli bond as the “indispensable alliance.”


But with the hawkish Israeli prime minister urging the international community to “beware” of Iran's intentions, he made clear that Israel and the United States are hardly on the same page.

”The world must not allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear weapons state, with the option to cross that threshold at a time of its choosing,” Netanyahu told a foreign policy forum in Washington, speaking via satellite link from Jerusalem.

While the United States wants talks limited to Iran's nuclear program, Netanyahu urged a broader approach, calling on world powers to demand suspension of Iranian missile development - which Israel sees as a security threat - and an end to Tehran's weapons supplies to anti-Israel militants.

Addressing the same forum on Saturday, Obama defended diplomacy with Iran but sought to reassure Israelis with a pledge to step up sanctions or prepare for a potential military strike if Tehran fails to abide by the pact.

He argued, however, it was unreasonable to envision a deal in which “we'll destroy every element and facility” and argued instead that world powers could accept a “modest” Iranian civil nuclear program subject to intensive international monitoring.

But Netanyahu made clear that Israel considers any Iranian enrichment capacity to have military potential - despite Tehran's denial that it seeks a nuclear bomb.

In his speech, Netanyahu spoke only briefly of the need to “take apart all the centrifuges” that Iran operates. But later, in a joint appearance with the visiting Dutch prime minister near Tel Aviv, he stressed the point.

I called today for the dismantling of all centrifuges,” he told reporters. “All centrifuges means that there's no enrichment ... and therefore we think that that should be part and parcel of a deal.”

Netanyahu stopped short of repeating his denunciation of the Geneva deal as a “historic mistake,” widely interpreted as a swipe at Obama, with whom he has had testy relations.

Instead, Netanyahu appears to have set his sights on trying to ensure that world powers squeeze maximum concessions from Iran as they try to craft a comprehensive settlement.

New twist

Adding a new twist to his pressure campaign, Netanyahu told a largely pro-Israel audience in Washington that Iran was “committed to our destruction” and that any final deal must “include a demand to change its genocidal policy.”

He accused Iran of supplying rockets to anti-Israel Islamist groups Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and also cited a recent comment by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling Israel the “rabid dog” of the Middle East.

Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, has steered clear of the Holocaust-denial rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in reaching out to the West. Rouhani has also pledged Iran will never seek a nuclear bomb.

Relations between Israel and the United States, traditionally the closest of allies, have been strained by the preliminary agreement, which was designed to halt advances in Iran's nuclear program and buy time for further negotiations.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution's Saban Forum, Netanyahu said a diplomatic solution is preferable but that a credible military threat and tough sanctions are vital to make that possible. And he called for steps to prevent further erosion of existing sanctions.

There is concern within the Obama administration that Netanyahu's criticism of the Geneva deal could add impetus to calls by pro-Israel U.S. lawmakers for new sanctions.

U.S. officials have appealed to Congress not to push for new punitive measures during negotiations, saying it could alienate Iran and other countries involved in the talks.

Israel's opposition to the deal has raised speculation that it might carry out long-threatened strikes against Iran. Netanyahu reiterated his vow that Israel must have the ability to “defend itself by itself,” but he issued no direct threats.

While Israel is widely assumed to have the region's only nuclear arsenal, many independent analysts believe it lacks the conventional clout to cause lasting damage to Iran's nuclear facilities. The Israelis are also unlikely to go it alone as their most important foreign partner is engaged in diplomacy.

Israeli-Palestinian talks

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Netanyahu said a nuclear-armed Iran would be the greatest threat to a potential Middle East peace accord.

He did not echo the hopeful outlook for U.S.-brokered talks that Obama - who has made the issue a top foreign policy priority - painted a day earlier - and said that any agreement that might emerge would initially result in a “cold peace.”

While putting the onus on the Palestinians, Netanyahu reiterated he was ready for “historic compromise” but offered nothing new. Palestinians say the negotiations have been hampered by Israeli settlement building on occupied West Bank land they want for a state.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs