Many of the world powers that took part in the negotiations with Iran have sent communiques to the Israeli government over the last two days, both publicly and through back channels, all conveying the same message: The interim agreement with Iran is a fait accompli. Western diplomats said it was made clear to Israel that instead of complaining about what was, Jerusalem should instead focus its efforts on what will be, by beginning to work with the powers over the next six months, ahead of the negotiations with Iran over a final agreement.
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This message was one of the central points during a 30-minute talk between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon. Obama told Netanyahu that the United States is interested in hearing Israel’s position regarding the final agreement with Iran as soon as possible.
It was also the bottom line of the telephone call held on Monday between Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The minister told Steinitz that he is interested in continuing to cooperate closely with Israel with regard to Iran, and urged Israel’s government to focus on the future.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague publicly called on Israel not to try and sabotage the interim agreement with Iran. “We would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement and we will make that very clear to all concerned,” Hague told parliament.
Representatives of the world powers have told Israel during the last 48 hours that they themselves will not allow the interim agreement to become a permanent arrangement. The powers believe that since Iran seeks the removal of the most damaging sanctions – the oil embargo and the limitations on Iranian banking – even Tehran will not be satisfied with an interim deal.
“The goal of a permanent agreement will be to dismantle significant portions of the Iranian nuclear program,” said one Western diplomat. “We would’ve been glad to do all this with the interim agreement, but that was unrealistic."
The Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the rest of Israel’s defense establishment, is beginning to realize that it must face reality. To borrow from the Kübler-Ross model of grieving, the Israeli government on Saturday and Sunday underwent the stages of anger, bargaining, and depression. In Washington, London, and Paris, they hope that Israel will reach the acceptance stage as soon as possible, and focus on the future.
During a Likud faction meeting on Monday, Netanyahu softened his tone, and was able to admit that the interim agreement also had some positive implications for Israel. “It’s true that the pressure we exerted bore some fruit, and brought about a better result than what was previously planned, but it’s still a bad deal,” said Netanyahu.
Israel has begun to accept the interim deal between Iran and the world powers, albeit slowly and uncomfortably. Take for example yesterday's briefing that Steinitz gave to European Union diplomats in Israel, which focused on the shortcomings of the interim deal and on protesting the conduct of the world powers.
Also, the memorandums that Israel sent on Sunday and Monday to Israeli embassies around the world from the PMO's national hasbara council and from the Foreign Ministry's department of strategic affairs, consisted mainly of complaints about the interim agreement, without any official Israeli position regarding the continuing negotiations toward a permanent agreement with Iran.
Netanyahu said yesterday that in the coming days a delegation headed by national security adviser Yossi Cohen will depart for Washington, to hold talks with senior American officials regarding the deal with Iran. Similar meetings will take place in the coming weeks with Britain, France, and Germany. At this time, however, the Israeli stance on a possible permanent agreement with Iran is not yet sufficiently consolidated, detailed, or creative.
Israel is continuing to publicly express a maximalist goal that has little chance of being achieved. Netanyahu said on Monday during the Likud meeting that “the permanent agreement must have one result: the destruction of Iran’s military nuclear capabilities.” Netanyahu is demanding that the permanent agreement not allow Iran to enrich uranium on its soil, not even to 3.5 percent. The interim agreement, however, has already determined that the final agreement will allow for a uranium enrichment program, with the level of enrichment to be decided between Iran and the world powers.