Kerry Dismisses Israel's 'Hysteria' Over Iran Deal

U.S. Secretary of State tells Channel 10 that U.S. will never disappoint Israel; Netanyahu, meanwhile, says Lausanne deal makes world a more dangerous place.

Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that there is "a lot of hysteria" in the criticism of the framework deal reached with Iran over its nuclear program. Kerry added that he believes that the agreement that will be signed on June 30 will protect Israel.

The interview was conducted on Thursday, and parts of it were broadcast on Saturday night. The full interview will be broadcast on Sunday evening. Mostly it dealt with the negotiations between Iran and six world powers, but also with the criticism in relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. Kerry also discussed the situation in Syria and Lebanon and future U.S. policy on the Palestinian issue.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu made statements to the contrary on Saturday, saying that the framework agreements formulated in Lausanne will not remove Iran's capability to obtain nuclear weapons, and is thus making the world a more dangerous place.

"It is not too late," Netanyahu said in a televised speech marking the 30th anniversary of the the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The countries around the world must have the courage and the resolve to hold out for a better deal, one that will actually do the job of blocking Iran's path to the bomb." Netanyahu added that "there are those who say the Lausanne framework [agreement] will make Israel safer. As the prime minister of Israel, I can tell you categorically this deal will endanger Israel – big time." 

Inspectors on a daily basis 

Kerry said in the interview that he understands the feelings in Israel toward the nuclear deal, and the questions and doubts it raises. Still, he rejected the claim that the U.S. has let Israel down, asserting that talk of "disappointment" was inappropriate. "We will never disappoint Israel," he said.

Kerry added that, under the deal, there would be inspectors in Iran "every day."

"That is not a 10-year deal, that's forever," he said. "There have to be inspections. There's a lot of hysteria about this deal. People really need to look at the facts, look at the science of what is behind those facts We ask people to measure carefully what the agreement is, and wait until we have an agreement to make all these judgements."

Kerry added that the U.S. will not sign a deal that won't stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and that won't provide the security of knowing what Iran is doing.

"When we started this negotiation, the breakout time ... to get enough fissile material for one bomb was about two months to three months. We have pushed that out now," Kerry told Channel 10. "And with this deal, for the first 10 years, we will know that it is one year for that period. Now, I ask you a simple question, is Israel safer with two months, or one year?"

Kerry went on to defend the framework deal with Iran, and said that part of the understandings between the two sides will reduce the stock of enriched uranium in Iran's hands by 98 percent - from 12 tons to 300 kilos for a period of 10 years. According to Kerry, the inspections of Iran's nuclear program will continue forever.

"We are going to put Iran to an extraordinarily rigorous test as to whether or not they are changing their visibility, their accountability, so that we know what they are doing, so that when they become an NPT country, full-fledged, we will still know that their program is peaceful," Kerry said. 

"I say to every Israeli, today we have the ability to stop them if they decided to move quickly to a bomb, and I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they're doing so that we could still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb.

"We don't give one option up that we have today," he added. "We have various options; sanctions, we have a military option. We don't lose any of those."  

The secretary of state sharply criticized Iran's policy throughout the Middle East, and particularly its support of terror groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon. The U.S., he said, has "no illusions" regarding why Hezbollah is there and who supports it. He added that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards must be removed from Syria and Iran's support for "these terrorist activities" needs to be stopped. Together with the Gulf states, said Kerry, the U.S. will bolster the security arrangements.

Kerry responded to Netanyahu's demand that any future nuclear agreement with Iran – and the removal of international sanctions – must be hinged on putting a stop to Tehran's support of terrorism. He stressed that while the U.S. has decided that its top priority is to tackle Iran's capability to manufacture nuclear weapons, this will not diminish the U.S.'s commitment to addressing the other areas of Iranian activities.

"I'd rather do it without them having a nuclear weapon than with them having one," he said. "And that's why we're intent on guaranteeing they don't get a nuclear weapon. It's a good starting point, folks."

'Netanyahu said he is committed to peace process'

Kerry also talked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and expressed his hope that Netanyahu will remain committed to the two-state solution. The secretary of state remarks were made in reference to comments by Netanyahu ahead of Israel's election on March 17, in which he said that there would be no Palestinian state while he is prime minister.

"He says he is" committed to the two-state solution, "and the key now is to put that to the test in terms of what he's prepared to do, what we're prepared to do together, and what the Palestinians hopefully are prepared to do," Kerry said. "I hope that he will embrace a process that will quickly show the world that indeed what he has said is the policy is being put to day-to-day practice."

Kerry stressed in the interview that the U.S protects Israel in various international forums, including the United Nations. Many Israelis don't see this, he added, but the U.S. is constantly "voting, working, pushing against unfair, biased, bigoted, degrading, inappropriate assaults on Israel's sovereignty and integrity." Kerry added that, because of this stance, the U.S. has been expelled from certain UN bodies, including UNESCO.

The difficulty, he said, is that if the peace process isn't renewed, "there are things that are bubbling up in various parts of the world, which are focused on Israel because of the settlements, because of other things, that we're not able to prevent from happening. They're happening.

"And so because we care about Israel, because we want Israel to be free to be fully engaged in commerce and trade and all the things that come with normal relationships, we want to work with Israel to try to do everything possible to change the current dynamic."