U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry claimed at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday that even Israeli chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot agrees that the nuclear deal with Iran has improved Israel's security.
The deal cut off all of Iran's pathways to a nuclear bomb, "thereby making the world safer for us and our allies," said Kerry at the Senate hearing. "And if you doubt that, read the speech by General Eisenkot, the head of the IDF forces of Israel, who recently, at a security conference in Israel, said that now, because of this agreement, there is no longer an existential threat to Israel from Iran with respect to the nuclear threat," he told the senators, many of whom voted against the deal.
Last January, Eisenkot, speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies’ annual conference in Tel Aviv, said that although the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers contained “many risks,” it also featured "opportunities" for Israel. According to Eisenkot, Iran will still aspire to obtain nuclear weapons, but that the Islamic republic “is waging a battle against Israel by proxy.” Today, he said, the IDF’s main enemy is Hezbollah.
The next day, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon addressed the same forum and responded to Eisenkot, insisting that Iran was Israel's biggest enemy. Ya'alon said that after the sanctions were lifted, "Iran has been signing deals worth tens of billions of dollars with anyone willing to sell them, and to fund and arm their proxies in the area." According to him, "the deal wound back the technological clock from the possibility they make the fissile material in three months to a year, but it's a limited agreement that under the best circumstances they will unleash themselves from it in 10 to 15 years I tell you – if Iran feels secure, especially economically, it could break through to a bomb even earlier."
This wasn't the first time Kerry cited Israeli top brass to rebuff criticism of the Iran deal. In January 2015, when Republicans in the Senate and the House pushed for new sanctions against Iran while the deal was still being negotiated, Kerry revealed to the Senate that he heard a senior Israeli intelligence official met with senators and warned that new sanctions "would be like throwing a grenade into the process." Kerry didn't name the official, but he was revealed a few days later to be then-Mossad chief Tamir Pardo.
In another Senate hearing, a week after the deal was signed in Vienna in July 2015, Kerry presented print-outs from the Washington Post and the Daily Beast citing former Shin Bet Chief Ami Ayalon and former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy as saying that Obama won and that the nuclear agreement was a good deal.
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