Israel condemns Iran nuclear deal
Published 14/07/2015 | 11:36
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has branded the Iran nuclear deal a mistake of "historic proportions" and vowed to maintain efforts to block the Islamic republic from obtaining an atomic bomb.
His reaction was echoed across the political spectrum in Israel, where concern is high that the country's arch enemy has duped the world and will acquire nuclear weapons to use against Israel.
Iran already backs militant groups that attack Israel and its leaders have referred to Israel's destruction in the past.
Mr Netanyahu has been at the forefront of global opposition to the deal and has openly clashed with Barack Obama's US administration and other western powers who have been pushing for an easing of sanctions in return for greater restrictions on Iran's nuclear programme.
Mr Netanyahu showed no signs of tempering his criticism, and added a veiled threat of his own.
"One cannot prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who, even during the talks, keep chanting: 'Death to America,'" he said, before a meeting with Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders.
"We knew very well that the desire to sign an agreement was stronger than anything, and therefore we did not commit to preventing an agreement. We did commit to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this commitment still stands."
In the past, Israel has threatened to carry out a military strike against Iran's nuclear installations. But that option appeared to fade as the US-led group of powers engaged in diplomacy with Iran.
Israel's first course of action looks to be an intense lobbying effort in the US Congress to oppose the deal. Mr Netanyahu spoke against the emerging deal before a joint session of Congress in March.
Yet, despite strong support among Republicans in Congress, there is little that can be done now.
The Senate can weigh in on the agreement but cannot kill it, because Mr Obama does not need congressional approval for a multi-national deal that is not designated a treaty.
US representatives have 60 days to review the agreement, during which Mr Obama cannot ease penalties on Iran.
Only if politicians were to build a veto-proof majority behind new legislation enacting new sanctions or preventing Mr Obama from suspending existing ones, the administration would be prevented from honouring the accord.
Deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely said Israel "will employ all diplomatic means to prevent confirmation of the agreement".
Mr Netanyahu's coalition partners angrily criticised the agreement. Education minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the hawkish Jewish Home party, said July 14 will be remembered a "dark day for the free world".
Cabinet minister Miri Regev said the agreement gave Iran a "licence to kill".
The cascade of criticism crossed party lines, reflecting the widespread opposition to the deal in Israel.
Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition Yesh Atid Party, said of Iran: "This is a regime based in deceit, and now they are going to do what they did for the last 20 years, which is trying to get themselves nuclear weapons behind the back of the world.
"Now they are going to do it with the help of the international community."
Mr Netanyahu called on all sides to "put petty politics aside" and unite behind opposing Iran.
"Our concern, of course, is that the militant Islamic state of Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons," he said, adding that Iran would get a "jackpot of cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars".
"This is a bad mistake of historic proportion," he added.