Strategic Affairs Minister Steinitz outlined Netanyahu government's position on Iran in interview with The Washington Post.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, waves to supporters in Qom. (photo credit:REUTERS)
Israel’s disagreements with the Obama administration over the parameters of an emerging agreement between the West and Iran have been known for years, but are only beginning to manifest in a public way as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress is just weeks away, Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told The Washington Post over the weekend.
Steinitz articulated his government’s position that the agreement being discussed does not adequately safeguard against an Iranian “breakout” to the bomb should the Tehran regime decide to sprint toward building an atomic weapon.
“From the very beginning, we made it clear we had reservations about the goal of the negotiations,” Steinitz told the newspaper’s chief foreign affairs analyst, David Ignatius. “We thought the goal should be to get rid of the Iranian nuclear threat, not verify or inspect it.”
The deal being discussed would leave Iran with the capability to develop an atomic device within a year while also enabling it to continue enriching uranium at high quantities, a prospect that Israel opposes.
Steinitz said that while he understood Washington’s desire to reach an agreement that would keep Iran’s nuclear program on stand-by for at least a decade – enough time for a new leadership to emerge – this approach presented serious challenges.
“You’re saying, okay, in 10 or 12 years Iran might be a different country,” Steinitz said. “[This is] dangerous” since it fails to take into account the fact that the regime is “thinking like an old-fashioned superpower.”
“To believe that in the next decade there will be a democratic change in leadership and that Iran won’t threaten the US or Israel anymore, I think this is too speculative,” the minister told The Washington Post.
Steinitz said that Israel initially believed that the Iranians would only be permitted to enrich a symbolic amount of uranium, but when the Netanyahu administration got word that the agreement being discussed would leave Iran in possession of thousands of centrifuges, it decided to escalate its rhetoric against the negotiations.
With the West bogged down with other crises, the Iranians could take advantage and “sneak out” of the agreement by quickly developing a bomb, Steinitz said. With the verification mechanisms stipulated by the agreement, it would already be too late for the Americans to catch Iran in the act.
“Iran is part of the problem and not part of the solution,” Steinitz said, before adding, “unless you think Iran dominating the Middle East is the solution.”