7/14/15 Israeli rEaction to the agreement with Iran

by Marc Schulman

After weeks of negotiations, an agreement has been reached between the P5 +1 and Iran. Yesterday, as it was already clear that an agreement was very near, the political recriminations began in Israel. Leaders of the opposition, MK Yair Lapid (of the Yesh Atid – There is a future – party) and MK Yitzhak Herzog (HaMachane HaTzioni – The Zionist Camp – party) vigorously attacked the agreement, and also verbally assaulted Prime Minister Netanyahu (with MK Yair Lapid calling on PM Netanyahu to resign, since he failed to stop the deal with Iran.) Former National Security Advisor, Uzi Arad, who had previously worked for Netanyahu, called for a National Commission of Inquiry.

On the Israeli government’s side reaction to the reaching of an understanding with Iran, even before there was word of an agreement, Prime Minister Netanyahu bashed the negotiators, declaring at a meeting of the the Likud:

“Even over the weekend, as Iran continued to receive more and more concessions at the negotiating table, Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani led a march of hatred in the streets of Tehran in which the masses cried, ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’. If the concessions continued even after these unequivocal calls for the destruction of those conducting the negotiations, it seems there are those who are ready to make an agreement at any price – and this bad agreement is unavoidable.”

This morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu charged that the agreement with Iran was “a mistake of historic proportions.” One of Netanyahu’s own Likud party ministers is said to have confided – “we do not know the details of the deal, but we have been told to oppose it.”

Knesset Minister Gilad Erdan, one of the central leaders of the Likud party and Israel’s Minister for Internal Security (i.e. Police forces) called on the leaders of opposition to stop tweeting attacks of the agreement in Hebrew, and start making public announcement in English opposing the deal.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely tweeted that this agreement was “an historic surrender of the West to the axis of evil, led by Iran and Israel will labor as hard has she can to stop approval of the agreement.”

Minister Naftali Bennett, Israel’s current Education Minister, and head of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party stated: “On this day a nuclear power has been born, and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history”

On the other hand – now that there is a done deal – Shelly Yachimovich, one of the leaders of the Zionist Camp opposition party, sent out a tweet calling on the Prime Minister to stop attacking the agreement and begin working on improving our relations with the Untied States.

Israel’s military and diplomatic correspondents do not seem to share the level of concern expressed by Israeli politicians. Many seem to believe that the deal with Iran is not a great deal, by it is not a bad deal either. These core correspondents regard the fact that this new agreement pushes off the existence of an Iranian nuclear program by over 10 years is a significant accomplishment. Ultimately, journalists all ask the question – What choice was there?

Speaking on Israeli radio this morning, the military correspondent of the Haaretz newspaper, Amos Harel, maintained that the Israeli military does not see the agreement as a major problem. Considering all of the events in the Middle East over the course of the past two years Israel’s strategic position has improved and Iran can be considered just one of the potential threats facing Israel in the future.

It also appears that the average Tel Aviv resident does not seem to share the profound concerns of the government. When I first learned an agreement was going to be announced this morning I mentioned the impending reality to a friend who I was sitting near. The Hebrew word for Greece is Yah-vahn and Iran is E-rahn. My friend thought I was talking about an agreement with Greece. When I enunciated more clearly – Iran – he just shrugged. Another acquaintance who is more politically connected stated: “What was the choice?”

I spoke this afternoon via phone with MK and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid. MK Lapid stated: “I think this is a bad day for the Jewish people and the Jewish State. The P5 + 1 has moved from a policy of preventing a nuclear Iran to a policy of containment without telling anyone”. MK Lapid went on to say that what is most troubling about the agreement is the issue of verification and the lack of a snap inspection regime – “If Iran was willing to keep the agreement it would not mind if they had snap inspection.” “The strange inspection arrangement in the agreement” MK Lapid continued, “will allow them to lie and cheat, which is what they have been doing for the last 20 years.”

Then, MK Lapid surprised me, by saying he will work with members of Congress to oppose the agreement. He said he would not go behind anyone’s back while doing it. However, he was very clear that he was planning to use the example of the failure in the agreement to permit clear snap inspections, as an illustration of why this deal is so poor.

It is clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to fight to the very end in Congress to try to stop the agreement. While some Israeli leaders think that this could be a self-defeating battle, it is clear that the Prime Minister does have wide support, both within his party – and even among the opposition – to fight against the agreement, whatever the cost.