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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs