Give the Iran Nuclear Agreement a Chance

Israel shouldn't give up the role of watchdog over Iran, but it must give a fair chance to Iran and the world powers to inaugurate a new path.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu, July 14, 2014.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in his office in Jerusalem on July 14, 2015. Reuters

The nuclear agreement signed Tuesday between Iran and the six world powers is an incredible diplomatic achievement and a historic milestone in the West’s relations with Iran since that country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. For the first time since Ayatollah Khomeini seized power, there were direct negotiations between Iran and the United States. Those talks led to an agreement, which in addition to its technical clauses includes mutual recognition and equality among its signatories.

The enormous effort invested by Iran and the representatives of the world powers, particularly the United States, an understanding of the great opportunity, and the determination to finish the process and not give up produced a result that is liable to remove, at least temporarily, one of the greatest threats to the Middle East in general and to Israel in particular.

“The achieved agreement is not complete and perfect, but it is what we managed to achieve,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. It was apparently also the best agreement that the Western powers were able to achieve.

One can argue with that conclusion, criticize the concessions made or call it a “dangerous agreement.” This agreement does not grant Iran an international certificate of good character – it still poses a threat to regional peace – and there is no certainty regarding its plans after the agreement expires. These concerns are understandable and the doubts about the agreement rest on a long history of violations and deception.

But like any agreement, even the best of them, the proof will be in the pudding, in Iran’s adherence to the pact’s language and spirit – as it acted with regard to the interim agreement – in the effective oversight of the agreement’s implementation, and in the uncompromising insistence on the fulfillment of all the agreement’s clauses. This is the enormous responsibility that the Western powers took on themselves by signing the pact.

The State of Israel, which sees itself, justifiably, as the primary target of the Iranian threat, is entitled to view the agreement with suspicion and distrust. Just as it exposed an important part of Iran’s nuclear program, it must continue to monitor Iran’s behavior and warn of any violation of the deal. Although Israel was not a partner to the negotiations, it cannot give up the role of watchdog that it has taken upon itself. At the same time, it must give a fair chance to Iran and the world powers to inaugurate a new path in their mutual relations.

The talks with Iran seriously damaged the relations between Israel and its ally, the United States. The crude assault on U.S. President Barack Obama, who is accused of “selling out Israel,” can be chalked up by Iran as another achievement. Israel must now join the international community and share in its misgivings, but also share the hope the agreement represents. The countries that signed it also provide the safety net that can guarantee Israel’s safety and security.