JERUSALEM – The public dispute between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State John Kerry extends beyond the issue of Iranian nuclear compliance. Sources report that Netanyahu and Kerry have had several heated arguments behind closed doors about the course of America’s Middle East foreign policy as it relates to Iran, the peace process with the Palestinians, Hizbullah, Syria, and Hamas.
While President Obama called Netanyahu last weekend to reassure him about America’s commitment to Israel, the Israeli leader and senior members of his government who have met with Kerry and other high-ranking American diplomats believe that the White House is seeking to appease Iran and impose another “bad deal” on Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
Despite the fact that Kerry accused the Iranians of backing out of the reportedly tentative nuclear enrichment and compliance deal in Geneva last weekend, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported that it was French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who thwarted the agreement between the P5+1 powers and Iran. Fabius did so when it became apparent that the Iranians could continue major aspects of their uranium enrichment program. Channel 2 also reported that a Jewish member of the French Parliament, Meyer Habib, a close confidant of Netanyahu, called Fabius to warn him that if the P5+1 powers did not “stiffen their terms” with the Iranians, Israel would be left with no choice but to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Iran rebuked Fabius for torpedoing the deal, accusing him of being “Israel’s representative.”
During Monday’s Knesset session Netanyahu said, “Israel is united in opposition to the deal being offered to Iran. We are speaking in a clear and unequivocal voice. The time that was spent over the weekend must be utilized to achieve a much better deal. The target date for this deal is the date on which a good deal will be achieved that will deny Iran a military nuclear capability. This is important not just for Israel but for the entire world.
“We will continue to say this simple truth in a clear voice because this is what needs to be done. When it comes to things that are so essential and fateful for the future and security of Israel, and for the peace of the world, one must speak clearly and thus we are doing [so] in order to prevent a bad deal.”
Members of Israel’s National Security Council told U.S. administrations officials, who traveled to Israel after Netanyahu strongly criticized the impending accord with the Iranians, that the deal also did not address how Iran would be punished if they bypassed the accord by having the North Koreans build the components of a nuclear weapon for them. The North Koreans have been deeply involved in assisting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards construct a ballistic missile system that could deliver nuclear weapons.
The Israelis criticized the Obama administration for not addressing the growing Iranian influence over Syria via Hizbullah, which has nearly 80,000 missiles pointed at Israel. Israel is also harshly critical of Iran’s attempt to transfer so-called game-changing weapons to Hizbullah, even doing so during the diplomatic negotiations between the Western allies and Iran.
Netanyahu was reportedly angered by Kerry’s warning that a third Palestinian intifada against Israel could occur if the Israelis were not more forthcoming in talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Israeli negotiators have repeatedly told Kerry during the past few months of negotiations with the PA that PA President Mahmoud Abbas continues to make unacceptable demands that Israel return areas inside Israel to the PA, such as the Latrun Salient (Coastal Plain) adjacent to the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway #1 near Modiin.
Abbas is also said to insist that Israel allow Palestinians to return to Israel as permanent residents, another Israeli objection. And to Israel’s chagrin, the Palestinians and Americans have not offered a solution on ways to depose the Hamas government in Gaza, which would almost certainly be part of any future Palestinian state.
Several leading Israeli newspaper commentators lined up behind Netanyahu, condemning the Obama administration for its puzzling diplomatic approach in the Middle East.
Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit wrote, “If, in the end, they talk and talk and talk some more [in Geneva] and nothing comes out of the contacts, the sanctions that have been rescinded will not be resumed, to say nothing of new sanctions that will not be imposed. What is Barack Obama doing to his country’s interests? He is losing Egypt. He did not oust Iran’s vassal in Syria. The Gulf States no longer trust the American umbrella, and he is abandoning Saudi Arabia.”Steve K. Walz
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