Israel is openly opposed to the nuclear weapons deal the United States seems dead set on consummating with Iran. The goal of that deal is the easing of international sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran taking limited steps suggesting a possible shift away from its goal of acquiring nuclear weapons.
The disagreement between the U.S. and Israel about the wisdom of this deal has become what many are calling a significant strain between the two allies.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned against the deal last week, calling it “a bad deal, a very, very bad deal,” and Israel remains steadfastly opposed. In turn, Secretary of State Kerry was quoted by senators as having told them to “ignore” what the Israelis were telling members of congress about the potential consequences of the deal.
Tuesday evening, Nov. 19, Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev told CNN’s Jake Tapper that it isn’t just Israel in Iran’s cross-hairs, but it is the U.S. itself that is an intended target of Iran’s nuclear weapon.
The interview began with Tapper quoting the Iranians who said that Israel is “trying to torpedo the agreement.”
Regev explained that Israel is certainly not opposed to an agreement that will end Iran’s rush towards nuclear weapons. But, he explained, what Israel wants is a good agreement.
Regev suggested that the alternatives aren’t between coming to an agreement and going to war. To illustrate, he offered the nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea that was entered into by the global community with great fanfare and celebration, but which turned out to be a very bad deal, as everyone learned.
North Korea, after having “shaken hands” on an agreement that barred it from developing nuclear weapons, within a year had not only developed those weapons, but exploded one. That was a spectacular display of what happens when a hopeful but naive global community places its trust in an inherently untrustworthy partner.
Israel’s goal is one Regev described as an agreement that actually, effectively, dismantles Iran’s nuclear weapons program, in contrast to the far more limited results the U.S. is seeking at this stage.
“Look, you can have an honest difference on what the estimates are,” Regev told Tapper, but the difference is not only about amounts, the difference is in direction. And Israel fundamentally disagrees with the U.S. view of the equation.
The U.S. view is that “the Iranians take small steps and then the international community, in parallel, takes small steps, to encourage them to move in the right direction.”
“The trouble with that equation is that it’s based on a falsehood,” because, Regev stated the Israeli understanding, it is simply not true that the Iranians are taking steps in the right direction.
And here’s the fundamental distinction: “All that we’ve seen, all the information that we have is that the Iranians are taking only cosmetic measures that in no way undermines their goal of having a nuclear weapon.
“They’re not willing to take any serious step. Not to dismantle a single centrifuge.”
That’s not just a difference in degree, it’s a difference in kind. It isn’t a question of how much, it is a question of “at all.”
The other significant concern which Regev touched on was that any easing of sanctions will actually lead to a complete collapse of the pressure on the Iranian economy, and therefore will mean there will be no pressure on Iran to even make the minor adjustments it has finally offered at this late stage.
But the really big news, the news that the Israeli government clearly wanted the American people to hear, is the direct consequences for Americans sitting in their homes in New York and Boston and Los Angeles and Houston.
This was the “okay, Washington, you may be willing to bet Iran won’t attack Americans in their homes, but the American people may feel a bit differently about that” approach.
Regev’s delivery and timing was perfect:
I mean, the Iranians are building intercontinental ballistic missiles. They’re not building them for us, they’ve already got missiles that can reach Israel. They’re building them for you! For targets in North America and Western Europe. It’s crucial that we don’t allow them to get nuclear weapons.
The interview ended with Tapper trying to get Regev to comment about the strain between the two nations, but Regev was not interested in that line of questioning. Instead, he ended the interview reminding the (American) audience that “Israel is directly affected by this. This is for us a core issue in our national security.”
Regev’s mission for this interview was to present the idea that it isn’t just Israelis in Tel Aviv and Haifa who need to worry about Iran having nuclear weapons. His message was that Americans need to see the problem of Iran becoming a country with nuclear weapons, one with its ICBMs pointed at the U.S., as a core issue for their national security.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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