A U.S. rejection of the Iran nuclear deal would clear the path to a better deal through tougher sanctions while reducing the risk of war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued in a live webcast Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 4. (View the full video here.)
The address, sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, gave Netanyahu a chance to explain to more than 10,000 Americans why he and 70 percent of Israelis oppose the agreement.
The prime minister repeated many things he has said before, including his most important point: “The nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it actually paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”
As the agreement stands, Netanyahu said, Iran has two nuclear options: the difficult, secret approach of violating the deal now to build one or two weapons and the easy way of waiting 15 years and developing dozens or hundreds of weapons.
That’s a far cry from the two options Iran had at the start of nuclear negotiations: keep the nuclear program and face ever-stronger sanctions, or eliminate the nuclear program to eliminate the sanctions.
Once the United States dropped the elimination of the nuclear push as a negotiating goal, the ideal trade-off was off the table. Netanyahu said he offered another position for the world powers: a significant rollback of the nuclear program combined with the end of Iran’s international aggressions in exchange for the phase-out of the sanctions.
“We’d accept a good deal,” Netanyahu said in response to one of four questions he took out of more than 3,000 submitted for the online event. “This is not a good deal.”
He denied that the only alternative to the deal is war or that Israelis, who are on the front lines facing multiple Iranian-backed threats, want war.
“I don’t oppose this deal because I want war,” Netanyahu said. “I oppose this deal because I want to prevent war.”
But he said the current deal increases the danger because it is sure to set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East as Arab nations respond to Iran’s entrenched position on the nuclear threshold.
“That’s a real nightmare,” he said.
Netanyahu said Israel’s widespread, nonpartisan opposition to the deal is remarkable because “Israel is not only a democracy; it’s a Jewish democracy.”
He denied that congressional rejection of the deal over the promised veto of President Barack Obama would destroy the system of economic sanctions crippling Iran’s economy. While rejection would lead to some erosion of the sanctions, he said, they would come back stronger once companies faced the reality of choosing between the U.S. market and an Iranian economy one-fortieth as big.
Rejection of the deal is vital not only for Israel and its Arab neighbors, Netanyahu said, but also for the United States, which remains Iran’s No. 1 enemy and the potential target of Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Despite having one of the world’s most respected intelligence agencies at his disposal, the Israeli leader scoffed at the idea that intelligence could prevent secret nuclear operations in Iran. He cited the years-long failure to discover Iran’s underground plutonium-producing facility and the similar failure to spot a Syrian nuclear plant.
He also criticized the agreement for forcing inspectors to wait 24 days to visit suspected nuclear facilities. Netanyahu cited unnamed experts as saying 24 days would be enough time for Iran to destroy any evidence.
“You can flush a lot nuclear meth down the toilet in 24 days,” he said.
He urged Americans to press Congress to reject the deal and increase sanctions to force Iran to abandon aggression. “Don’t let the world’s foremost terrorist regime get its hands on the world’s most dangerous weapons.”