JERUSALEM – For the first time since Israel’s founding in 1948, a high-ranking member of the Saudi royal family has publicly acknowledged that a country other than Israel is “the real danger” in the Middle East.
In an interview with Bloomberg News earlier this week, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal criticized President Obama for rushing into an interim deal with Iran on nuclear arms, saying, “Iran is the real danger, not Israel.” He also acknowledged that Sunni Arab states across the region would welcome an Israeli military strike again Iran.
“Publicly, the Sunnis would be against it,” he said. “Privately, they would love it.” The prince reserved his most severe criticism for Obama, saying, “Obama is in so much of a rush to have a deal with Iran. He wants anything. He’s so wounded. It’s very scary. Look, the 2014 elections are going to begin. Within two months they’re going to start campaigning. Thirty-nine members of his own party in the House [of Representatives] have already moved away from him on Obamacare. That’s scary for him.”
Obama is working to repair his personal relationship and mutual trust with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the Israeli leader’s public and private denunciation of the Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry’s nuclear deal with Iran. According to Iranian news sources, the White House has already authorized the release of $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets as a result of the current sanctions against Iran.
During a speech to the Knesset earlier this week, Netanyahu said, “I would be happy if I could join those voices around the world that are praising the Geneva agreement. It is true that the international pressure which we applied was partly successful and has led to a better result than what was originally planned, but this is still a bad deal. It reduces the pressure on Iran without receiving anything tangible in return and the Iranians who laughed all the way to the bank are themselves saying that this deal has saved them.
“I spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama,” Netanyahu continued. “We agreed that an Israeli team led by National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen will leave soon for the U.S. to discuss the permanent agreement with Iran. That agreement must lead to one result: the dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear capability. I remind you that only last week, during the talks, the leaders of Iran repeated their commitment to destroy the state of Israel, and I reiterate here today my commitment, as prime minister of Israel, to prevent them from achieving the ability to do so.”
Leaders inside Netanyahu’s governing coalition were also highly critical of the P5+1 countries and Obama for fast-tracking what the called a “bad deal” with Iran. Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, said, “This is not academics. They [Iran] are a strategic threat to the existence of Israel. The agreement was made with people who are professional swindlers. We should make sure that the final agreement is an agreement Israel can live with.”
Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, was even harsher in his assessment of the deal. “The agreement is very bad, and this is exactly what Iran wanted. If in another five years a brief bomb containing a nuclear weapon is detonated in New York or Madrid, it will be as a direct result of the deal that was made in Geneva,” he ominously stated.
Yediot Aharonot’s senior correspondent for military and intelligence affairs, Ronen Bergman, wrote, “Israel has cause for concern. First, because its main demand, the complete dismantling of Fordow, the fortified underground site near Qom, was not met. Second, because the agreement, in contrast to Israel’s demand, is for only six months, and therefore, Iran will be able to resume nuclear development in another six months without being considered in violation of it.
“Third, and most importantly,” Bergman went on, “the section of the agreement regarding sanctions is very vague. It is not clear which sanctions will be lifted and how. If it becomes clear that Iran is violating the agreement, or if it refuses to sign a permanent agreement, the ability to threaten it again will be severely impaired.”
Members of America’s influential Evangelical Christian community also condemned Obama for his hasty deal with Iran. The executive director of Christians United For Israel, David Brog, told The Jewish Press, “This is a dangerous deal, and only those willing to suspend their disbelief in Iran’s charm offensive will be satisfied by it. The cumulative pressure of economic sanctions was finally hurting Iran enough to bring it to the table. But we’ve now agreed to remove this pressure in return for meaningless concessions.”
Brog added, “Even if we’ve set back Iran’s uranium enrichment by a few weeks, Iran will retain its capacity to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon within a matter of months. And this deal does nothing to stop Iran from turning their full attention to the less advanced parts of their nuclear program, namely the weaponization of their enriched uranium and the development of missiles to deliver a bomb. In short, all we’ve done is free Iran to pursue its top nuclear weapons priorities without the burden of the full weight of sanctions.”
The Israeli government has warned the Obama administration and Western allies that any final agreement with Iran must emphasize the dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear capability and the complete cessation of uranium enrichment.