A senior member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet suggested this week that Israel may attack Iran if the United States and its international partners reach what he called “a bad deal” with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.
“If a bad deal is signed,” said Israel’s Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on PBS on Tuesday, “it will ultimately increase chances for, you know, an action and a war.”
Appearing to be somewhat astonished, host Charlie Rose sought to get clarification. “You’re saying that the deal that you think is on the table is a bad deal and is more likely that Israel will be forced to strike if that deal is signed and becomes a fait accompli?” Rose asked.
“A bad deal will increase chances for the need of a military option, that’s correct, yes,” Bennett replied. “Our assumption as an independent state is that we will never outsource our security and our existence to anyone, including America.” Watch the clip:
Bennett later explained what he thought would amount to a bad deal: allowing Iran to keep its uranium enrichment infrastructure. “The answer should be dismantling those 18,500 centrifuges that were criminally acquired over the past decade, and not keeping that machine,” he said.
Experts have said that a first step deal will most likely involve Iran suspending its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity — which is close to weapons grade levels — and curbing other aspects of its program in exchange for around $7 billion in sanctions relief. Obama administration officials have said that any easing of sanctions could be easily reversed if Iran does not adhere to the terms of the deal.
Iran hawks like Netanyahu, numerous American lawmakers and their allies have argued in recent weeks that Iran should not be allowed to enrich uranium and that some or all of its nuclear program should be disassembled.
The Israeli prime minister “will be satisfied with nothing less than the dismantlement of every scrap of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure,” one administration strategist said recently, according to the New York Times. “We’d love that, too — but there’s no way that’s going to happen at this point in the negotiation. And for us, the goal is to make sure that we are putting limits and constraints on the program, and ensuring that if the Iranians decided to race for a bomb, we would know in time to react.”
Indeed, experts say that a permanent halt of Iranian uranium enrichment is “highly unrealistic,” which has perhaps allowed many to conclude that those advocating such maximalist positions and pushing to pile on more sanctions now are ultimately moving the U.S. toward war with Iran.
“If you want a war, that is the thing to do,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said this week, referring to adding more sanctions on Iran. Even the White House reportedly shares this view. According to JTA, a senior White House official said this week that “Israel’s proposal that Iran totally dismantle its nuclear capacity in exchange for sanctions relief would likely lead to war.”
Bennett is in the United States on a campaign to derail an agreement with Iran that is not to Israel’s liking. “Years from now, when an Islamic terrorist blows up a suitcase in New York, or when Iran launches a nuclear missile at Rome or Tel Aviv, it will have happened only because a Bad Deal was made during these defining moments,” he said in a press release earlier this month.
A poll released on Wednesday by the Washington Post and ABC News found that 64 percent of Americans support an agreement with Iran that restricts its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.