News / Middle East

    Israel Urges Tough Line on Iran Nuclear Deal

    FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    Reuters
    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.”

    ’Beware’

    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-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora