Netanyahu Changes Tune: No Longer Says Trump's 'About to Nix' Iran Nuclear Deal, Now Says 'It's in His Hands'

Diplomatic sources believe PM wants to avoid perception that Israel is meddling in U.S. affairs

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents information on Iran's nuclear program in Tel Aviv, April 30, 2018.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has softened his statements about U.S. President Donald Trump's plans regarding the Iran nuclear deal in recent days.

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Until this week, Netanyahu 's conversations with Western diplomats suggested he was convinced Trump intended to not to recertify the deal by the May 12 deadline unless it is significantly altered. Some diplomats present in discussions on the matter say the prime minister projected high confidence that Trump does indeed intend to exit the deal and is leaning towards doing so.

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Map locating Iran's Nuclear facilities
Reuters

Over the past few days, he has moderated his message in private and public discussions, briefings, and interviews, and Netanyahu has made it clear that the decision is in Trump's hands and that Israel does not yet know what he will ultimately decide.

Diplomatic sources believe Netanyahu does not want to take a chance by making clear-cut statements before Trump announces his decision, and that he wants to avoid the perception that Israel is applying pressure or is intervening in sensitive security decisions in the U.S.

A senior Israeli official said Tuesday that "we are now nearing a major decision by the White House and the Europeans have made their position known. It was their week, but now it's our week."

Trump said in a 2015 interview, as he campaigned for the presidency, that it would be hard to "rip up" the agreement, which he said would "lead to nuclear holocaust," but that if he was elected president he would "police that contract so tough they don't have a chance." The president has since his inauguration in January 2017 chosen to recertify that Iran is abiding by the agreement's terms. 

However, Trump has more recently said that unless European allies fix what he has called "terrible flaws" in the accord by May 12, he will restore U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, which would be a severe blow to the pact.

On Monday, Netanyahu held a press conference in which he claimed Iran hid an "atomic archive" of documents on its nuclear program, saying Israel had managed to obtain some 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs that proved the Islamic Republic was secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons before signing the 2015 treaty. 

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that professional delegations from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany will arrive in Israel this weekend to examine the materials.