News / Middle East

Wary of War, Israeli Public Gives Iran Deal a Chance

Israelis fish in the Mediterranean sea as aircraft prepares to land in Sde Dov airport in Tel Aviv, Nov. 24, 2013.
Israelis fish in the Mediterranean sea as aircraft prepares to land in Sde Dov airport in Tel Aviv, Nov. 24, 2013.
Reuters
Going about their business on Monday, Israelis seemed more accepting than their leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, of a nuclear deal with Iran that he rejected as a historic mistake.

On the streets of Israeli cities, people questioned about Sunday's interim accord between global powers and the Islamic Republic voiced doubts about an agreement that Netanyahu said would leave arch-foe Iran within reach of an atomic bomb.

But they also said the deal, which allows a six-month period of limits to Iran's nuclear program in exchange for up to $7 billion worth of sanctions relief, was preferable to war.

“I am leaning more to the side that it's worth the effort - the six months - to see if there's a chance there can be a diplomatic solution,” said Sharon Bar-Lev, 49, from the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv.

“We all want to avoid war in the long run,” Bar-Lev, who works in marketing, told Reuters.

Netanyahu, who had sought a dismantling of Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities, shifted tack on Monday toward working with U.S. President Barack Obama to promote a tough final deal with Iran. He announced that his top security adviser would go to the United States soon to discuss it with U.S. officials.

Netanyahu's veiled threats to attack Iran to prevent it being able to make nuclear weapons have long set off alarms in Washington and other Western capitals.

But he has held his fire in the face of U.S. pressure and doubts that former Israeli security chiefs have been voicing for years over the armed forces' ability to put a permanent stop to Iran's nuclear drive. Their concerns have resonated deeply with Israelis.

Such anti-war sentiment has echoed on Tel Aviv's stock exchange, which hit a record high on Sunday after news an agreement had been reached in Geneva.

“The market believes the military option is off the table,” said Zach Herzog, head of international sales at Psagot Securities.

“Nobody wants to see a Middle East war break out and see missiles falling on Tel Aviv. Therefore, regardless of Netanyahu's pulpit sermon, the market forces will prefer to judge the agreement on reality,” he said.

Isolation

With an internationally backed interim deal now in place, any unilateral military move by Israel - assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power - could deepen its isolation.

“There is no way Israel, which is an ally of the United States and Europe and likes to view itself as the good guy in a difficult region, can attack Iran for six months after this agreement is signed,” Herzog added.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. Netanyahu, who won a new five-year term after an election in January, says it threatens Israel's very existence.

“I'm in favor of dialog over war,” said Ora Cohen, 61, a physical education teacher from Jerusalem. But she was nonetheless wary of trusting Iran's leaders. “Nobody wins a war,” she said. “But on the other hand, I don't believe them.”

At the same time, however, Cohen voiced a commonly held sentiment among Israelis that the moment has passed when Israel might have been able to use force to nip Iran's nuclear program in the bud: “I think it's too late,” she said. “At some point we should have acted. But that was a few years ago.”

Joshua Scherer, an 80-year-old former English teacher originally from New York, was skeptical of Obama, despite the president's assurance last year that Washington “will always have Israel's back”.

“This president, Obama, won't use force for anything,” Scherer said. “In any confrontation, we would be on our own.”

Dvorah Levine, 66, a retired school principal from Jerusalem, also felt the Geneva deal has left Israel standing alone: “The fact we are isolated in the world - it's frightening and unpleasant,” she said. “This isn't anything new, really though. We already knew the world doesn't like us.”

Halil Alian, a garage owner, said Washington's re-engagement with Iran, despite Netanyahu's objections, showed that Washington was focusing on its own wider interests in the Middle East at the expense of its traditional ally.

“We are simply chess pieces on a board and the Americans are the ones moving us around according to their strategic whims,” said Alian, 61.

For some in Israel, more widespread Israeli mistrust of Washington may also bring benefits - by making it less likely U.S.-brokered talks can reach a deal with the Palestinians.

Dani Dayan, a leader of the settler movement committed to expanding Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, said:   “In Geneva, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations came to an end - because Netanyahu will not move an inch based on American, international, guarantees that are essential to reach a deal.”

The peace talks, which resumed in July after a three-year break, have shown little sign of progress.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid