Monday, April 6, 2015

Israel Suggests Ways to Make Iran Nuclear Deal ‘More Reasonable’

Yuval Steinitz
JERUSALEM — Clearly unsatisfied with assurances from Washington, Israel on Monday listed specific requirements that it said it wanted in any final deal with Iran over that country’s nuclear program.

Whereas Israel’s public diplomacy has so far focused on what many have said was an unrealistic demand for the complete dismantlement of Iran’s potentially military nuclear infrastructure, Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, presented a list of desired modifications for the final agreement due to be concluded by June 30, that he said would make it “more reasonable.”

Those changes, the Israeli government says, are necessary to close dangerous loopholes in the preliminary framework agreed between Iran and world powers including the United States in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week.

The Israeli list includes:

• An end to all research and development activity on advanced centrifuges in Iran.

• A significant reduction in the number of centrifuges that are operational or can quickly become operational if Iran breaks the agreement and decides to build a bomb.

• The closing of the underground Fordo facility as an enrichment site, even if enrichment activities are suspended there.

• Iranian compliance in revealing its past activities with possible military dimensions

• A commitment to ship its stockpile of enriched uranium out of Iran.

• And the ability for inspectors charged with verifying the agreement to go “anywhere, anytime” in Iran.

The reaction from Israel came after President Obama’s assurances that the preliminary agreement was the “best bet by far” to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and his pledge to the Israelis that the United States had “got their backs.”

Mr. Steinitz said that the suggestion that there was no alternative to the framework agreed in Lausanne, or that Israel had not put forward an alternative, “is wrong.”

“The alternative is not necessarily to declare war on Iran,” he said, briefing international reporters at a Jerusalem hotel. “It is to increase pressure on Iran and stand firm and make Iran make serious concessions and have a much better deal.”

The disagreements between Israel and the Obama administration over the Iran talks have severely strained the American-Israeli relationship in recent months, with the tone on both sides often confrontational.

The White House was infuriated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint session of Congress in March in order to criticize the emerging agreement without consulting the White House.

Despite Mr. Obama’s more conciliatory tone toward Israel in recent days, Israel has made it clear that it intends to keep up the pressure when it comes to Iran. On Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” where he said, “I’m not trying to kill any deal. I’m trying to kill a bad deal.”

There has been criticism in Israel of Mr. Netanyahu’s approach. Efraim Halevy, a former chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, suggested that those in Israel who have been critical of Mr. Obama should change their tone.

Mr. Halevy told Israel’s Army Radio on Monday that Israel has three months to lobby the Obama administration to improve specific points of the agreement with Iran. “In order to influence you have to act with a certain kind of respect for your partner,” he said.

In Jerusalem on Monday Mr. Steinitz, the minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, said that Israel would be making further efforts to persuade the Obama administration and Congress, as well as Britain, France, Russia and other world powers, “not to sign this bad deal or at least to dramatically change or fix it.”

Referring to Mr. Obama’s explanation in an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, that if Iran objected to site inspections an international mechanism would be in place to assess those objections, Mr. Steinitz said that was “not good enough.” It was unsatisfactory, Mr. Steinitz said, because of the time required to refer suspicions to a committee and also because nobody would want to expose sensitive intelligence data to a committee that included an Iranian presence.

Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal but maintains a policy of ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying that it possesses nuclear weapons.

Iran and the Obama Doctrine

  No wonder Obama’s credibility today in Israel matches that of Baghdad Bob in 2003