Editorial

A Disastrous Pullout

Netanyahu might think that Israelis should be grateful to Trump, but at this point the U.S. pullout endangers the world and threatens Israel

U.S. President Donald Trump displays a presidential memorandum after announcing his intent to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement, May 8, 2018.
\ JONATHAN ERNST/ REUTERS

President Donald Trump’s harshly worded declaration that the United States was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposing economic sanctions that had been lifted as a result of the accord increases the danger of a clash in the region. But it is too early to know whether the international community will agree to give up the relative calm that the nuclear deal gave it. It is important to wait and see the response of the European countries and Russia and China, which are also signatories to the agreement. Will they pull out in the wake of the United States’ decision and join in reimposing sanctions on Iran? If so – who? And no less important, what will Iran’s response be?

Since the European countries, Russia and China will not necessarily follow the U.S., various scenarios could ensue, including the possibility that the agreement will remain in force despite the American withdrawal. The U.S. pullout could hurt its international standing and the validity of international accords.

According to reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as statements by the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Iran has strictly kept to the agreement with no breaches whatsoever, which could make the world perceive the U.S. departure as a withdrawal from a commitment it made under President Barack Obama. France, Germany and Britain have already announced their disappointment with the United States’ exit from the accord. The European Union also expressed its displeasure.

Trump admitted in his speech that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had managed to produce clear proof of the Iranian regime’s lies with his dramatic presentation last week, making it a sufficient and necessary excuse for the United States to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose sanctions. But it is not at all certain that other countries have been persuaded that Iran breached the agreement.

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It is not clear that someone other than the United States has been convinced that Netanyahu revealed much more than Iran’s past lies, which led the international community to sign it to the nuclear agreement in the first place.

The fact that Netanyahu is working demonstrably and publicly against the agreement could paint Israel as pushing the world to war. The departure of the United States from the agreement, among other reasons because of the “proof” provided by Netanyahu, could lead to a rift within Israel’s natural coalition. The prime minister might think that Israelis should be grateful to Trump, but at this point the U.S. pullout endangers the world and threatens Israel.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu hastened to congratulate Trump while continuing his belligerent rhetoric against Iran. Instead of calming the high level of tension between Israel and Iran, which manifested itself in increased preparedness for an Iranian attack and the opening of shelters in the north of the country, the prime minister and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman prefer to heat up the region and flex their muscles. This is behavior that could cost dearly.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.