Netanyahu: Israel Won't Accept Deal That Leaves Iran a Nuclear Threshold State

Tripartite summit opens in Oman, with goal of reaching nuclear deal with Iran by November 24.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Kerry, Ashton, and Zarif in Vienna, Austria, on October 15, 2014.
Kerry, Ashton, and Zarif in Vienna, Austria, on October 15, 2014.Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel would not accept an international agreement that enabled Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state, calling that scenario a danger for the entire world.

Netanyahu made his remarks to ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, just as a tripartite summit opened in Muscat, Oman aimed at reaching a breakthrough and securing a permanent agreement over Iran's nuclear program by the official deadline of November 24. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the EU’s envoy to the nuclear negotiations, Catherine Ashton will meet for two days to discuss ways to advance the negotiations.

"The international community now faces a simple choice: To give in to the demands of Iran in an agreement of surrender that is dangerous not just to Israel, but for the entire world, or to stand firm on the demand that Iran dismantles its capability to manufacture nuclear weapons," Netanyahu told ministers. "Israel will not agree to an agreement that leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state; it is dangerous for all of us," he added.

In indirect reference to the secret letter U.S. President Barack Obama sent to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei suggesting that the Islamic Republic join the fight against ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) in exchange for a nuclear deal, Netanyahu said: "Only yesterday [Khamenei] called for our destruction. Statements that Iran has become more moderate are contradicted by its practical policies: The call to destroy us, the negation of human rights, and the reports that we are receiving from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is continuing to lie and deceive the world about its plans and actions to achieve nuclear weapons."

"With an Iran like this, ruled by such a regime, we must do everything to ensure that it not arm itself with nuclear weapons or the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons within a short period of time," said Netanyahu.

Negotiations in Oman: The positions.

Previous rounds of negotiations between Iran and the world powers over the last year were held in Geneva or Vienna; this is the first official summit to be held in Oman. Sultan Qaboos of Oman previously hosted the secret talks between the United States and Iran that led to the resumption of official talks and the breakthrough that brought about the interim deal, after which Iran froze major parts of its nuclear program.

The tripartite summit in Oman will last two days, Sunday and Monday. Ashton met in Vienna on Friday with the heads of the negotiating teams of the six powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – for preparatory talks and coordination ahead of the summit.

The negotiating teams of each side, including the full Iranian delegation, will meet in Vienna for the home stretch of the talks on November 18, lasting until the November 24 deadline. The EU coordinates the negotiations on behalf of the six powers.

At this stage, there are still large gaps between the positions of Iran and the world powers, especially over how much uranium enrichment capability Iran will be allowed to retain after an agreement is signed. So far, the Iranians have refused to show any flexibility on the matter, while the P5+1 nations have presented a number of compromise agreements that have led nowhere.

The Iranians refuse to dismantle the 19,000 centrifuges they currently possess; the world powers are willing to let Iran keep several thousand centrifuges. Even though all sides are trying to relay that the impression that they are focused on reaching a deal by November 24, it is likely there will be no choice but to extend the negotiations by a few more months.

President Barack Obama, Kerry and the heads of the U.S. negotiating team put the chances of getting a deal by the 24th at 50:50. However, senior officials in the Obama administration are making every effort to close the gap with Iran.

Iran and the six powers reached an interim deal last November under which Tehran received limited sanctions relief in exchange for halting the production of medium enriched uranium. That six-month accord took effect early this year and was extended by four months in July.

Last Thursday, a high-level Israeli delegation led by national security adviser Yossi Cohen arrived at the White House for diplomatic and security talks with senior American officials, focusing on the Iranian nuclear program.

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