Iran nuclear deal based on 'deceit,' says Israel minister
Yuval Steinitz says deal 'more likely to bring Iran closer to having a bomb'
Israel harshly criticized the international community's nuclear deal with Iran on Sunday, accusing the world of "self-delusion" and saying the agreement would not halt Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Israel has long accused Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and in the weeks leading up to Sunday's agreement had warned the emerging deal was insufficient.
It had called for increased pressure on Iran, and warned that any relief from economic sanctions would make Iran less willing to compromise down the road.
Israel's Cabinet minister for intelligence issues, Yuval Steinitz, said the last-minute changes to the deal were "far from satisfactory" and did nothing to change Israel's position.
"This agreement is still bad and will make it more difficult than before to achieve an appropriate solution in the future," he said.
Instead, he compared it to a failed 2007 international deal with North Korea and said it "is more likely to bring Iran closer to having a bomb."
Economic Minister Naftali Bennett, another security cabinet member, told Army Radio in a separate interview: "Israel does not see itself as bound by this bad, this very bad agreement that has been signed."
Deception and self-delusion
"Israel cannot participate in the international celebration, which is based on Iranian deception and [international] self-delusion," said Steinitz, whose responsibilities include monitoring Iran's nuclear program.
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to its very survival, citing Iranian calls for Israel's destruction, its development of long-range missiles capable of striking Israel and Iran's support for hostile militant groups along Israel's borders. It dismisses Iranian claims that the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Israel has repeatedly threatened to carry out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities if it concludes international diplomacy has failed to curb the Iranian nuclear program.
But Steinitz indicated an Israeli attack is not in the works for the time being.
"Despite our disappointment, we will remain steadfast in our position and work with our friends and allies in the United States and the rest of the world in an attempt to achieve a comprehensive solution which includes a full and genuine dismantling of Iran's military infrastructure," he said.
'A nuclear Iran'
Under the terms of the deal, Iran agreed to halt progress on key elements of its nuclear program in exchange for modest relief from U.S. economic sanctions.
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to hold off from imposing new sanctions during the terms of the six-month agreement, a position likely to anger some in Congress who have been pushing for even tougher penalties against Iran.
But some in Congress also remained wary about the deal.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, pledged to work with others in the Senate to increase the economic pressure on Iran until it "completely abandons" its capability to enrich and reprocess the uranium needed to make weapons.
"This agreement makes a nuclear Iran more, not less, likely," Rubio said in a statement.
Skeptical of Iran's intentions
Obama came into office promising to talk to Iran without preconditions. The U.S. and Iran broke off diplomatic ties in 1979 after the Islamic revolution and the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where dozens of Americans were held hostage for more than a year.
The June election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a more moderate-sounding cleric, helped pave the way for a thaw in diplomatic relations with the U.S., a historic phone call between the two presidents and this latest round of nuclear negotiations.
Obama's outreach to Iran has worried Israel and Persian Gulf nations, which fear Iran is using the negotiations as a delay tactic while it continues to pursue a nuclear weapon.
The president said those nations "have good reason to be skeptical of Iran's intentions." But he said "only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program."
Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that while "Iran has done little to deserve our trust," the agreement "has the potential to serve as a valuable stepping stone to a final agreement that can serve the long-term security interests of the United States, Israel, the Middle East and the entire international community."
Gutow said any final agreement must not leave Iran able to continue its drive for nuclear weapons capability, or able to easily restart its program at any point in the future.
"The menace of a nuclear-armed Iran needs to be eliminated once and for all," Gutow said.
With files from Reuters