Benjamin Netanyahu says Israeli cabinet united in 'strongly opposing' Iran nuclear deal
Netanyahu has harshly criticized the negotiations, demanding that Iran's program be dismantled
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his cabinet are united in "strongly opposing" an emerging framework agreement on curbing Iran's nuclear program and demanded that any final deal contain Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist.
Iran and six world powers announced a series of understandings Thursday, with a final agreement to be reached by June 30. A final deal is meant to cut significantly into Iran's bomb-capable technology while giving Tehran quick access to assets and markets blocked by international sanctions.
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Netanyahu has harshly criticized the negotiations, demanding instead that the Iranian program be dismantled. He claims Iran cannot be trusted, and that leaving certain facilities intact would allow the Iranians to eventually build a bomb. Iran denies it has nuclear weapons ambitions and says its program is intended for peaceful purposes.
However, it appears unlikely Israel will be able to prevent the final deal amid broad international support for such an agreement.
Convened special cabinet session
On Friday, the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday, Netanyahu convened his cabinet for a special session to discuss the emerging framework, reached after a week of grueling negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Netanyahu said after the session that "Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period."
However, he also acknowledged the possibility of a final agreement being reached, saying that such a deal must "include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist."
Netanyahu said his Cabinet "is united strongly [in] opposing the proposed deal," which he said would threaten Israel's survival.
"Such a deal does not block Iran's path to the bomb," he said. "Such a deal paves Iran's path to the bomb. And it might very well spark a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East and it would greatly increase the risks of terrible war."
The commitments announced Thursday, if implemented, would substantially pare back some Iranian nuclear assets for a decade and restrict others for an additional five years. According to a U.S. document listing those commitments, Tehran is ready to reduce its number of centrifuges, the machines that can spin uranium gas to levels used in nuclear warheads.
Of the nearly 20,000 centrifuges Iran now has installed or running at its main enrichment site, the country would be allowed to operate just over 5,000. Much of its enriched stockpiles would be neutralized. A planned reactor would be reconstructed so it can't produce weapons-grade plutonium. Monitoring and inspections by the U.N. nuclear agency would be enhanced.
'Would not destroy a single centrifuge'
However, Netanyahu argued that the emerging deal would leave much of Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact.
"They would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop research and development on Iran's advanced centrifuges," he said. "On the contrary. The deal would legitimize Iran's illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place."
He called on the world powers to stand firm and increase pressure in Iran until what he termed a good deal is achieved.