Pro-Israel News

Date:
Friday, April 17, 2015


Detection mechanism for Hamas attack tunnels successfully tested, now to be expanded; residents cautiously welcome protection


BY DANIEL BERNSTEIN April 16, 2015, 10:28 pm | The Times of Israel| 

 

The IDF is set to deploy a revolutionary new tunnel detection system along the Gaza Strip border, in an effort to better protect Israeli citizens from terrorist infiltration.

The new system was already successfully trialed in recent months along parts of the border, and is now expected to be expanded further, the daily newspaper Yedioth Aharonot reported Thursday.

An exact time-frame for its deployment was not made immediately clear.

A first of its kind in the world, the system includes a series of sensors that will provide data, deciphered by advanced algorithms, allowing security forces to accurately detect and locate tunnel-digging operations, the report said.

Attack tunnels extending into Israeli territory prompted an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, which began in July and lasted for 50 days.

Destroying the tunnel threat was one of Israel’s goals during the summer’s military campaign, which saw over 2,100 people killed in Gaza and tens of thousands more left homeless, according to Palestinian and UN tallies, and 72 people killed in Israel. Eleven Israeli soldiers were killed inside Israel by Hamas gunmen emerging from the cross-border tunnels.

 
 

Full deployment of the system, developed by the Director of Research and Development in the Defense Ministry in cooperation with Israeli industries, is pending government approval and the allocation of designated funds.

The Times of Israel reported on Wednesday that Hamas has begun using heavy machinery and engineering tools to accelerate the excavation of attack tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip under the Israeli border. The equipment, sources in the Palestinian enclave said, includes small bulldozers with the ability to maneuver in tight spaces. From the Israeli side of the border, larger tractors are clearly visible above the ground as the machines prepare the tunnel entries.

 

The Gaza-based terrorist organization has been using whatever cement it can get its hands on for the construction of the tunnels, and fortifying the walls of its underground structures with wood as well.

Security officials told The Times of Israel last month that Hamas has invested considerable effort in digging a new tunnel network within the coastal enclave, as well as several tunnels meant for eventual cross-border attacks.

The evidence of digging can be seen from the Israeli side of the border, and residents of frontier towns have documented the construction some several hundred meters from the border.

Alon Shuster, head of Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, told Yedioth Aharonot that he closely followed the government and military efforts to develop the means to combat the Hamas tunnel threat. “This advancement provides an additional layer of security for the residents,” he said.

Amit Caspi of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom – one of three communities that lie within a kilometer from Gaza – said the tunnels mostly threaten the residents’ morale. “We view it as an unsolvable threat, so if indeed there was a breakthrough, although we know there can be no total solution, it can greatly improve our personal security,” he said.

“I hope it helps save lives and improves our quality of life.”

Date:
Thursday, April 16, 2015

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF April 15, 2015, 9:10 pm Times of Israel| 

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday compared Iran’s violent and expansionist aspirations in the Middle East to the Nazi campaign to conquer Europe during World War II.

He excoriated the US-led world powers for capitulating to Iran, and allowing it to maintain key elements of its nuclear program in the deal currently being negotiated, even as Tehran seeks to acquire weapons of mass destruction and destroy the Jewish state.

World powers are “comatose” and “delusional” in the face of today’s Nazis, Iran, he charged.

 

“The main lesson of the Second World War, for democracies, is that they cannot turn a blind eye to tyrannical regimes,” Netanyahu said during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem museum to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Appeasement towards these regimes increases their aggressiveness,” the Israeli leader continued. “If this aggressiveness is not curbed in time, humanity may find itself in far greater wars in the future.”

Netanyahu noted that “ahead of World War II, the world attempted to appease the Nazis. They wanted quiet at any price, and the terrible price did come.” Six million Jews were murdered, as were millions of others. The lesson was clear, he said: Only standing firm in the face of violent, tyrannical regimes could ensure the future of humanity. But that lesson, he said, had evidently been forgotten.

 

Just as the Nazis sought to destroy Europe, Netanyahu said, so does Iran seek to wreak havoc in the Middle East and beyond, and to annihilate Israel.

World leaders utter the words “Never again” but don’t mean them, he charged.

 

He said he wished he could believe that the world had learned the lesson of the incomprehensible horrors wrought by the Nazis, but that “the threats to humanity are multiplying.”

He cited the slaughters of innocents by Islamic extremists, and then focused heavily on Iran.

The prime minister asserted that the framework nuclear deal which was reached earlier this month between Iran and the P5+1 world powers proves that the international community has failed to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.

“The Iranian regime represses its people,” Netanyahu said, “and plunges the Middle East into a tide of blood and suffering.”

 

Just as the Nazis sought to destroy civilization, install the Aryan race and wipe out the Jewish people, he said, so too do the Iranians intend to take over this region and destroy the Jewish state.

Iran was following two paths, he said, seeking nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them, and “exporting the Khomeini revolution to many lands via the massive use of terrorism and widespread conquest in the Middle East.”

“The danger is there for all to see… and yet the blindness is vast,” he asserted. “The West is capitulating in the face of Iran’s aggressive actions…

 

“Iranian leaders are exporting death and destruction. The world is not listening to the calls in Iran urging Death to Israel, Death to America,” Netanyahu said.

Instead of demanding the significant rolling back of Iran’s facilities, and instead of conditioning the lifting of sanctions on the end of its aggression, “the world powers are withdrawing.”

The new deal leaves nuclear capabilities in the hands of a nation that says openly that it wants to kill Israel’s six million Jews, Netanyahu complained. The civilized world is “comatose, gripped by delusion,” he charged.

“The democratic states made a terrible mistake” when failing to confront the rise of Nazism, “and they’re making a terrible mistake now.”

 

The prime minister vowed to protect the Jewish state at all costs, even if no other nation stands by Israel’s side. “We will continue to insist on the truth, and to try to open the closed eyes,” he promised, predicting “testing times ahead.”

“Even if we are forced to stand alone, we will not falter,” he said. Israel’s leaders would “ensure our right and capacity and determination to defend ourselves.” While the Jews had no power 70 years ago, “today we can make ourselves heard and we are determined to ensure our existence and our future.”

Vowed Netanyahu: “We will not allow the State of Israel to become a passing phase in the history of our people.”

 

Date:
Wednesday, April 15, 2015


After compromise, Obama administration suggests it will not veto bill to give Congress say on final agreement

 

BY REBECCA SHIMONI STOIL April 15, 2015, 12:19 am | The Times of Israel| 

 

WASHINGTON — After a last-minute compromise earned the Obama administration’s support, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a bill that would increase Congressional oversight of any comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran Tuesday.

The bill, authored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will now head to the Senate floor, where it is likely to pass the final hurdle and be signed into law.

The move earned quick praise from the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby, which  urged quick action by the full Senate to adopt the legislation and called on the House to take action on similar congressional review legislation.

Corker and Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) worked over the past 24 hours to come up with a version of the bill that would make the legislation more palatable to Democrats.

In recent weeks, the White House campaigned hard against the original text of the legislation, which it said undermined the possibility of reaching any negotiated agreement with Iran.

 

At the bill’s heart is text that will allow Congress a 52 day review period of any agreement that the US reaches with Iran over its nuclear program in the framework of ongoing talks between Tehran and the P5+1 member states. An earlier version of the bill sought to put any plan by Obama to lift sanctions on Iran on hold for up to 60 days while Congress reviewed the deal.

In advocating for his legislation, Corker repeatedly criticized the current situation, in which both the United Nations Security Council and the Iranian Majlis parliament would be able to vote on any agreement, but the United States Congress would not.

“The administration … has been fighting strongly against this,” said Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“I know they’ve relented because of what they believe will be the outcome here,” he said. “I believe this is going to be an important role, especially the compliance pieces that come afterward.”

The White House initially promised to veto the legislation, but it reversed course shortly before the committee vote, indicating that it would not put the kibosh on the bill.

 

It’s not clear Obama would have been able to wield his veto pen in any case. Even before the White House’s reversal, Corker claimed that he already had garnered enough support to override any potential presidential veto.

Obama, whose foreign policy legacy would be burnished by a deal with Iran, has been in a standoff for months with lawmakers who say Congress should have a chance to weigh in and remain skeptical that Iran will honor any agreement.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold final judgment on the bill while it works its way through Congress, wary that potential changes could be made in committee that would render it unpalatable. But he said the White House could support the compromise in its current form.

“Despite the things about it that we don’t like, enough substantial changes have been made that the president would be willing to sign it,” Earnest said.

One provision of the bill which was described by its opponents as a poison pill was a clause stipulating that Iran cease state sponsorship of terror.

That clause was removed from the final text of the bill as a provision for gaining the administration’s approval for the legislation.

 

At the same time, Cardin stressed during the powerful Senate committee’s Tuesday meeting that language still remained in the legislation that required the president to make regular reports to Congress regarding both Iran’s state sponsorship of terror as well as its extensive record of domestic human rights abuses.

An attempt to restore the anti-terror language through a last-minute amendment to the bill was rejected by both Cardin and Corker in an effort to pass a bill that would not be vetoed.

Speaking during the Tuesday session, Menendez described the bill as “the way to send a message to Tehran about our expectations.”

“The fact is – if the P5+1 and Iran ultimately achieve a comprehensive agreement by the June deadline – at the end of the day, Congress must have oversight responsibility, and this legislation provides it. This bill establishes a managed process for Congressional review and a framework for Congressional oversight,” Menendez said.

The former ranking member, who stepped down from committee leadership earlier this month after being indicted on corruption-related charges, argued that the case of the Iranian negotiations differed from other non-treaty agreements which did not require Congressional approval.

 

Menendez grounded his argument in the claim that Congress had been central in approving nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, and thus must also have a role in lifting them. “As the author of those sanctions, working with others, I can tell you that we never envisioned a wholesale waiver of those sanctions without congressional input and action,” he noted.

The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee quickly issued a statement applauding the unanimous vote for the bill, which was one of the cornerstones of its lobbying agenda this year.

“AIPAC believes that it is imperative for Congress to assert its historic foreign policy role,” the organization wrote. “Congress should review any agreement to ensure it meets US objectives and object if it fails to do so. Serious concerns have been raised over the framework understanding. A final deal, with its immense national security implications, must be subjected to the constitutional system of checks and balances that is the bedrock of our democracy.”

Date:
Tuesday, April 14, 2015

 


Hours after Russia agrees to supply Tehran with advanced air defense system, PM says regime is ‘grasping the Middle East with arms of terror and blood’

BY STUART WINER April 13, 2015, 10:46 pm | The Times of Israel| 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night said Iran was being emboldened by the emerging nuclear deal with world powers to expand its support for terror activity throughout the region, and warned Tehran was “grasping the Middle East with arms of terror and blood.”

 

The prime minister’s comments came hours after Russia announced that it would supply the Islamic Republic with S-300 missile air defense systems, prompting objections from Israel and the US.

“Iran draws encouragement from the concessions that it is receiving from the major powers,” Netanyahu said. “The message that Iran is receiving from this is that it is not being called upon to halt its aggression, that it can continue and even increase this aggression, and this is exactly what it is doing. It has been doing so in recent months, in recent weeks and in recent days…It is grasping the Middle East with arms of terror and blood.”

The prime minister cautioned that if the deal — which aims to curb Iran’s contested nuclear program in exchanged for sanctions relief — is finalized by the June 30 deadline, Tehran’s expansionist activities will receive “international legitimacy.”

“Iran is receiving legitimacy to continue these actions and when the sanctions are lifted shortly, if indeed the deal is approved, it will receive billions of dollars to finance its war and terrorism machines, with international legitimacy,” he said.

Israel has argued that any deal with Iran be contingent on its halting its support for terror groups Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The US has consistently rejected the approach, saying the two issues must be dealt with separately.

 

“Before our very eyes an absurd reality is taking shape in which the key to our fate and the future of the Middle East is liable to be delivered into the hands of the fanatical Iranian regime. An agreement full of holes with Iran will not ensure regional stability; a vigorous and resolute policy that prevents it from arming itself with nuclear weapons and compels it to halt its takeover of other nations would,” Netanyahu said.

He maintained there was nothing that could convince him to support the “very bad deal” reached in Lausanne.

“There’s no explanation that can convince me that the deal is a good deal for a simple reason,” Netanyahu said. “It’s a bad deal. A very bad deal. It is a deal that leaves Iran in possession of the capability to arm itself with nuclear weapons, that fills its coffers with a lot of money and that not only enables it to continue its terrorism and aggression in the Middle East and around the world but does not even demand that it stop doing so.”

Netanyahu’s comments came as several unnamed officials in Jerusalem warned that Iran was stepping up its arms support for Hezbollah and Hamas in past weeks.

Hours earlier, Russian President Vladmir Putin declared that the S-300 missiles would be supplied to Iran, completing an $800 million deal signed in 2007. At the time, the US and Israel both strongly opposed the sale of the air defense system, that was seen as a regional game-changer. In 2010, Russia froze delivery of the missiles, citing global sanctions against selling military equipment to Iran that were imposed as part of an effort to squeeze a deal out of the Islamic Republic over its controversial nuclear program.

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Pentagon raised objections with Moscow over the plan. The White House said Kerry made the US opposition clear in a phone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The call came as Lavrov argued that the preliminary agreement over Iran’s nuclear program made the 2010 ban on sending missiles to Iran no longer necessary.

Experts say the S-300s would complicate any attempt at military intervention against Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel also fears they could be made available to Syria and Hezbollah, changing the balance of power in the region.

Although Iran claims the nuclear research is for peaceful purposes only, world powers fear it is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

The framework agreement marked a crucial advance in a 12-year standoff between Iran and the West, which disputes Tehran’s denial that it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. However, Israeli officials, led by Netanyahu, have strongly condemned the deal for placing inadequate limitations on Iran’s ability to research and produce nuclear weapons.

Global powers must resolve a series of difficult technical issues by a June 30 deadline for a final deal, including the steps for lifting global sanctions imposed on Iran, and lingering questions over the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program.

 

Date:
Monday, April 13, 2015

12/04/2015| Press Release from Prime Ministers Office|  

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement:
 
"In the last few days, Iran has shown again why it can’t be trusted.
 
Iran insists on maintaining its formidable nuclear capabilities with which it could produce nuclear bombs. Iran insists on removing all sanctions immediately. And Iran refuses to allow effective inspections of all its suspect facilities. At the same time, Iran continues its unbridled aggression in the region and its terrorism throughout the world.
 
So let me reiterate again the two main components of the alternative to this bad deal: First, instead of allowing Iran to preserve and develop its nuclear capabilities, a better deal would significantly roll back these capabilities – for example, by shutting down the illicit underground facilities that Iran concealed for years from the international community. Second, instead of lifting the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear facilities and program at a fixed date, a better deal would link the lifting of these restrictions to an end of Iran’s aggression in the region, its worldwide terrorism and its threats to annihilate Israel.
 
Iran needs a deal more than anyone. Instead of making dangerous concessions to Iran, now is the time for the international community to reassert and fortify its original demands for a better deal.
 
We must not let Iran, the foremost sponsor of global terrorism, have an easy path to nuclear weapons which will threaten the entire world." 

Date:
Friday, April 10, 2015
 

By JPOST.COM STAFF \04/10/2015 03:26| The Jerusalem Post|

 

A survey conducted by NBC News has found that 68 percent of Americans do not believe Iran will uphold its part of a final nuclear accord with six major powers. 

Iran and the P5+1 countries – the US, China, Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany – reached a framework deal with Tehran in Lausanne earlier this month, which framed the parameters of a larger, more technical agreement due by June 30.

A quarter of those surveyed in the NBC poll, which was conducted online April 6-8 and released on Thursday, said they trusted the Islamic Republic "to abide by a nuclear agreement."

Under the pact, cast as an "understanding," Iran will be allowed to continue the enrichment of uranium and will close no facilities.

53% of respondents said Iran's nuclear program constitutes a major threat to the United States. 37%, by comparison, said it was a minor threat, while 8% said it was no risk whatsoever. 

Also, half said they were following events unfolding throughout the nuclear talks quite closely, with more Republicans than Democrats staying tuned to news coming out of Switzerland.

The American TV network also asked participants who they trusted more to spearhead negotiations to curb Iran's nuclear program – US President Barack Obama or the Republicans in Congress – to which most (54%) returned with support for the president. 

Nearly two thirds of the 2,052 adults surveyed said they felt the country was heading in the wrong direction. As for Obama's job approval ratings – the poll, which was done in conjunction with SurveyMonkey, found that some 51% of Americans approved of "the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president" compared to 48% who disapproved. 

World powers and Iran have yet to agree on a fundamental component of the structure of a nuclear deal, with the main disagreement between the parties being how to couple international sanctions relief for Tehran with its demonstrated compliance with an accord.

The United States and its allies want to lift sanctions over time, providing little relief up front, whereas Iran wants full exemption from all EU and UN sanctions upon the initial implementation of a comprehensive agreement.

Date:
Thursday, April 9, 2015


Rot set in when P5+1 stopped demanding Iran dismantle nuclear facilities, says Yuval Steinitz. But Lausanne framework doesn’t even halt Iran’s progress

By David Horovitz April 9, 2015, 6:50 am | The Times of Israel| 

 

Israel’s minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, is at the forefront of his government’s very high-profile effort to expose perceived flaws and close loopholes in the world powers’ new framework nuclear deal with Iran. There’s just one problem, he says: There is no deal. In fact, there isn’t even a written framework.

 

Asked for his overall assessment of a deal hailed by the US as “historic,” Steinitz responded with a sigh and the plaintive lament: “The deal? I don’t understand anything about it.”

 

He then suggested that the framework was foggy and marked a pitiful precedent for international diplomacy: “Usually there’s a signed document, and then the sides argue about the interpretation. Now, they’re not arguing about the interpretation, but over the text. Because nothing was agreed. There is no text. In Lausanne, they didn’t manage to reach an agreement. So, to an extent, they fabricated understandings. Some are less clear. Some are more clear. But they weren’t written. And so there are different narratives. I don’t think there’s been an international agreement in the past that wasn’t written and signed.”

Still, from what Steinitz can discern amid the vagueness and conflicting narratives, he has pieced together a bleak picture. Echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said the non-written non-deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb — treating the regime “as though it can be trusted, like Holland or Japan.”

 
 

The root of the rot, he argued, was the decision by US-led world powers, about two years ago, to veer away from their previous insistence that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure be “dismantled and neutralized,” and opt instead for a “freeze and inspect” approach, which he said was “an unfortunately more minimal” path. Now, compounding that fundamental error, he said, came the recent porous understandings that neither freeze nor inspect effectively.

‘I don’t think there’s been an international agreement in the past that wasn’t written and signed’

 

In an interview with The Times of Israel on Wednesday, Steinitz stressed — for the benefit of those who criticize Israel’s ostensibly hard-line attitude — that “Israel didn’t change its position.” The “big mistake” was that the world powers did, he said, abandoning their demand to dismantle and neutralize, a demand that had produced a string of UN resolutions against an Iran that had “built a uranium enrichment project secretively and in breach of commitments.” The previous stance of the world powers known as the P5+1 had been “You want a peaceful nuclear program — well, fine, but no enrichment. Like Spain, Mexico, South Africa,” he said.

So Israel’s criticisms begin with that initial shift. The “overall approach is wrong,” said Steinitz. In Lausanne, however, the very vague terms of the understanding give every indication of failing even to ensure a competent, viable mechanism for the misguided “freeze and inspect” approach, he said.

For a start, he continued, the apparent terms do not freeze R&D on advanced centrifuges. Iran can thus continue to improve its centrifuges “legitimately” and break out to the bomb as soon as the restrictions on advanced centrifuges expire, in a little over a decade — the very flaw that President Barack Obama highlighted in his NPR interview on Monday, and which the State Department scrambled to explain away a day later.

 
 

Except that the right to ongoing R&D is actually more problematic than Obama acknowledged, said Steinitz. He posited that it would take Iran only about five years to complete the R&D on its IR-8 centrifuges, geared to enrich uranium 20 times faster than its current, basic line of IR-1s. “We’re not only worried about what happens in 10 years,” he said. “We’re worried that in five years, if and when their research is done, they will be able to break out to the bomb in two to three months. If they do break out, they can build 200 IR-8 centrifuges and install them in about two months,” and then produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb in a few weeks.

 

Steinitz said that the Iranians don’t yet have working IR-8 centrifuges; they are in development. When Foreign Minister Zarif and nuclear chief Salehi reportedly told MPs in Tehran that they’ll “inject gas” into their IR-8s on day one of the deal, Steinitz believes, they “apparently meant that they will be allowed to continue development from day one of the deal. They’ll put in a certain gas to check the models.”

The aftermath of the announcement of the deal has indeed been marked by diverging interpretations of the framework not only between Iran and the US but even between the US and France, which was on the same side of the negotiating table.

How will the IAEA be able to fully inspect and inspect what the regime is doing in the future, ‘if you don’t know where they’ve got to in the past’?

Then come the inspections, which Steinitz said were inadequately provided for in the Lausanne understandings. Iran, it appears, is still not being required to give a full accounting to the International Atomic Energy Agency on the possible military dimensions of its nuclear activities to date, he said. “And that is dangerous on a world level, since other countries will conclude that they too don’t have to give full answers to the IAEA — countries like Argentina, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”

And as regards Iran itself, he asked, how will the IAEA be able to fully inspect and inspect what the regime is doing in the future, “if you don’t know where they’ve got to in the past — for example, on nuclear warheads?”

 

What’s worse, he pressed on, is that the understandings do not provide for critical “anywhere, anytime” inspections of any and all suspicious sites. How did Steinitz reach that conclusion? In part, from Obama’s New York Times interview. “Tom Friedman asked him, If there are military sites with nuclear activities, can there be ‘anywhere/anytime’ inspections? Obama said no. He said, We’d have to request that of the Iranians, and if the Iranians say no, there’ll have to be arbitration.”

(Steinitz, obviously, was paraphrasing. What Obama said was, “Obviously, a request will have to be made. Iran could object, but what we have done is to try to design a mechanism whereby once those objections are heard, that it is not a final veto that Iran has, but in fact some sort of international mechanism will be in place that makes a fair assessment as to whether there should be an inspection, and if they determine it should be, that’s the tiebreaker, not Iran saying, ‘No, you can’t come here.'”)

Steinitz was anything but persuaded. “We say that is ineffective. It will take time,” he said — time in which Iran can render suspicious sites less suspicious. “And, of course, if Israel or the UK or the US have intelligence that arouses suspicions, say, about two or three sites, military bases, facilities — these could be huge compounds — and there is an arbitration committee, Iran will deny the allegations. They’ll say, Show us proof. Well, we’re not going to give them our intelligence. We’re not going to expose our intelligence to the Iranians. So we think it’s useless.”

All of which, in Steinitz’s bleak conclusion, means that, “They claim that there’s a freeze and inspections, and we see loopholes.”

But what more can Israel do about this state of affairs, apart from gearing up to look after itself?

 
 

It couldn’t have made its objections any clearer. A month ago, Netanyahu was publicly lobbying Congress against the Obama-backed deal, to the president’s evident fury. Since last Thursday, the prime minister has been blitzing US media with his complaints. He asked that a final deal be conditioned on Iranian recognition of Israel; the president swatted the demand away. Steinitz on Monday asked 10 questions about the framework and listed a series of loophole-closing demands for a “more acceptable” deal. Hours later, Obama adviser Ben Rhodes went on his own Israeli TV blitz, effectively ruling out more stringent demands on Iran. The deal as it now stands meets the US’s “core objectives,” Rhodes told Channel 2. “We believe that this is the best deal that can emerge from these negotiations,” he reiterated to Channel 10.

Steinitz indicated he was undeterred by such tactical obstacles. “We’ll continue the dialogue with the US and with all the P5+1 players,” he promised. “We’ll keep expressing our positions. It is having an effect. There is American media resonance. The 10 questions that I raised, and my parameters for a more acceptable deal — when it was said that Israel wasn’t offering an alternative — are resonating.”

Steinitz insisted that the holes in the disputed parameters could yet be plugged, “if there is sufficient pressure on Iran.”

“If there is sufficient pressure,” he repeated, “I believe Iran will give in on all or most of these points,” he claimed, sounding just a little as though he was trying to convince the both of us. “If the Iranians see there’s no alternative, that they’ll be facing ever greater economic pressure, that there’s the risk of a military strike…”

 

He tailed off, then sallied forth again, on a slightly different, more idealistic tack: “The P5+1 shouldn’t be saying, What’s the alternative. Iran should be saying, What’s the alternative. Two years ago, when he was running for election, [President Hassan] Rouhani asked, What’s the alternative? We have to make concessions, he said. We have to save the economy, he said. Now, it’s Obama and the P5+1, the world’s powers, that are asking what’s the alternative.”

How to explain this grim reversal? I wondered. Is Obama a man of bad intentions?

 

“I certainly don’t think that the president has bad intentions,” Steinitz fired back rapidly and firmly. “I greatly appreciate his security guarantees to Israel, his commitment to Israel, the dialogue with Israel. Heaven forbid, I don’t accuse Obama or [Secretary of State John] Kerry of bad intentions, but they’re making a terrible mistake — one that recalls the 2007 North Korea deal, hailed by the whole world. Four years later, they had the bomb.”

If absolutely not malice, then, what’s driving the administration?

 

“I think there’s a delusion by Obama and Kerry and some European states,” Steinitz said, “that Zarif and Rouhani are moderates who represent moderates in Iran. They all said that Rouhani was different from Ahmadinejad, and that Iran would change for the better in the Rouhani era, and that if we just give Rouhani and Zarif sanctions relief, we’ll empower them vis-a-vis the Revolutionary Guards and [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei and the extreme factions.”

Instead, Steinitz argued, the opposite has played out. “Iran has not changed for the better. Iran has changed for the worse. Iran’s behavior is much more aggressive around the Middle East than it was under Ahmadinejad.”

It more openly supports terrorist groups and Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria and Lebanon, he elaborated. It now openly talks about arming the Palestinians in the West Bank. And look at its support for the rebels in Yemen, he urged.

“The [previous] interim agreement, with its partial sanctions relief, didn’t encourage moderation,” Steinitz concluded. “The concept that you’ll empower the moderate Rouhani and Zarif was a very nice concept two years ago. But it’s totally unconnected with the facts on the ground.”

 

Date:
Wednesday, April 8, 2015


We share his assessment,’ official says, after president acknowledged agreement will give Iran near-zero breakout time in 13-15 years

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF AND AP April 8, 2015, 11:35 am | The Times of Israel|


Israel on Wednesday flatly rejected Obama administration explanations and clarifications of the president’s remarks a day earlier, in which he appeared to acknowledge that Iran would be able to break out to the bomb almost immediately when key provisions of the new nuclear deal expire in 13-15 years.

A senior official in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel that “we share his assessment.”

And the director general of Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence praised the president for telling “the truth” about “a very bad deal.”

In an interview with NPR, Obama, whose top priority at the moment is to sell the framework deal to critics, was pushing back on the charge that the deal being negotiated by US-led world powers fails to eliminate the risk of Tehran breaking out to the bomb, because it allows Iran to keep enriching uranium. He told NPR that Iran will be capped for a decade at 300 kilograms of enriched uranium — not enough to convert to a stockpile of weapons-grade material. He then added: “What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.”

According to State Department acting spokesperson Marie Harf, Obama “was referring to a scenario in which there was no deal. And if you go back and look at the transcript — I know it’s a little confusing, I spoke to the folks at the White House and read it a few times — it’s my understanding he was referring to — even though it was a little muddled in the words — a scenario in which there was no deal.”

 

In a briefing Tuesday, Harf noted that some of the restrictions that would be in place during those years have not yet been negotiated. “Part of the negotiations remains what happens to some of those pieces in those further-on years. I don’t have a specific breakout time to put on to those years at this point, but obviously we want as long of a breakout time for as long as possible. So it would not be zero,” Harf said.

Israel, however, rejected this attempt at clarification, with the senior official saying that Israel understood the president to be acknowledging the problematics of the accord.

The official noted, furthermore, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a relentless opponent of the US-backed terms — had highlighted precisely the problem that Obama cited when he addressed both houses of Congress last month.

 

In that address on March 3, Netanyahu warned: “Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal. Because virtually all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade… Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could produce many, many nuclear bombs. Iran’s Supreme Leader says that openly. He says Iran plans to have 190,000 centrifuges, not 6,000 or even the 19,000 that Iran has today… With this massive capacity, Iran could make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal in a matter of weeks… My long-time friend, John Kerry, the secretary of state, confirmed last week that Iran could legitimately possess that massive centrifuge capacity when the deal expires… The foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons, and this with full international legitimacy.”

Ram Ben-Barak, a former senior Mossad official who now heads Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence, furthermore, praised Obama for his candor in highlighting aspects of what Ben-Barak called “a very bad deal.

“Barack Obama is evidently an honest man, who clearly is incapable of telling a lie. And therefore he told the truth,” Ben-Barak told Army Radio.

“Ask any American or European official who has been involved in the negotiations, ask him if he thinks that at the end of the process Iran wants nuclear weapons,” Ben-Barak went on. “Ask him in a one-on-one conversation, and he’ll tell you yes, that’s for sure.”

 

Date:
Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Top minister acerbic on president’s assurances; Netanyahu set to keep up his US media campaign against Iran deal

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF April 7, 2015, 6:20 pm | The Times of Israel| 


 

A top Israeli minister on Tuesday brushed aside President Barack Obama’s pledges to stand by Israel and ensure it is not weakened, saying such promises will be worthless if Iran is allowed to get the bomb.

Obama said Sunday that he would consider it a “fundamental failure” of his presidency if Israel emerges weakened as a consequence of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and promised to “stand by” Israel if it is attacked by any state actor.

 

Obama’s statements of support “are pleasant-sounding,” Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz retorted in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV. But, he continued, “no assistance and no backing will help if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.”

Iran openly seeks the annihilation of Israel. A senior Iranian military chief declared, even as the talks on a framework deal continued last week, that Israel’s destruction is nonnegotiable.

Steinitz, a confidant and Likud party colleague of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Monday presented a list of Israeli demandsaimed at improving the terms of the world powers’ deal with Iran in the weeks ahead of its scheduled completion by June 30.

The changes proposed by Steinitz include the following: barring further Iranian R&D on advanced centrifuges; significantly reducing the number of centrifuges Iran would have available to reactivate if it violates the deal; shuttering the Fordo underground enrichment facility; requiring Iran’s compliance in detailing previous nuclear activities with possible military dimensions; shipping its stockpile of lower-enriched uranium out of the country; and ensuring “anywhere, anytime” inspections of Iran’s facilities. Such changes, said Steinitz, would render a final deal “more reasonable.”

Hours later, however, Obama adviser Ben Rhodes ruled out significant changes that would make the deal more stringent for Iran. The deal as it now stands meets the US’s “core objectives,” Rhodes said in Israeli TV interviews. “We believe that this is the best deal that can emerge from these negotiations.”

Netanyahu has been a caustic and relentless critic of the framework deal announced last Thursday, and his personal ties with Obama have been strained by his public opposition to the US negotiating strategy for months.

 

In a Sunday interview with The New York Times, Obama said he would be willing “to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them. And that, I think, should be … sufficient to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.”

He also said that accusations that his administration is not doing all it can to ensure Israel’s security have made recent months a “hard period” for him personally. “It has been personally difficult for me to hear… expressions that somehow… this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest — and the suggestion that when we have very serious policy differences, that that’s not in the context of a deep and abiding friendship and concern and understanding of the threats that the Jewish people have faced historically and continue to face.”

 

Netanyahu has insisted that he respects the president, and said in US TV interviews on Sunday that the disagreement between them was not personal. “I trust the president is doing what he thinks is good for the United States. But I think we can have a legitimate difference of opinion on this,” Netanyahu told CNN.

The prime minister gave three US TV interviews on Sunday in which he savaged the framework agreement with Iran as paving the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal.

The Times of Israel has learned that Netanyahu intends to continue his push for “a better deal” in further US media appearances, since he regards American public opinion as the most potential important area in pressing for terms that would thwart Iran’s nuclear drive. Notably, Netanyahu has not invested similar efforts in reaching out to the media of other P5+1 countries.

Israeli officials are also expected to engage in extensive dialogue with their American counterparts, in order to argue for changes in the deal, in the weeks leading up to June 30.

While Rhodes claimed in his Israeli TV interviews on Monday night that “Iran will never be permitted to build a nuclear weapon,” Obama acknowledged in an NPR interview on Monday that, as restrictions in the deal expire, it would leave Iran with a near-zero breakout time to the bomb after 13 years.

Israel is concerned that the deal both legitimizes Iran’s ongoing nuclear drive, and that Iran will outwit the international community, and could potentially break out to the bomb at short notice.

 

Date:
Monday, April 6, 2015


Paper distributed by senior Likud minister queries immediate sanctions relief, failure to secure ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections, and other alleged central flaws in Lausanne framework agreement

 

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF April 6, 2015, 3:33 pm | The Times of Israel|
 

Israel on Monday posed 10 questions to the US-led negotiators with Iran that it said underlined “the extent of the irresponsible concessions given to Iran” in the framework agreement reached last Thursday, and made clear “how dangerous the framework is for Israel, the region and the world.”

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The questions were listed in a document distributed by Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, a Likud party member and confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The document (see accompanying PDF here) reiterated Netanyahu’s assertion that “a better deal” can and must be reached. It protested that the framework agreement reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, and hailed by President Barack Obama as “historic,” “ignores the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program to Israel.” By contrast, it charged, “great consideration” was given to Iran, “an enemy of the Unites States, whose regime, even during the negotiations, continued to conduct aggression in the region and to call for the destruction of Israel.”

It charged that “the framework deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb. By removing the sanctions and lifting the main restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade, this framework paves Iran’s path to a bomb.”

 

Echoing criticisms leveled by Netanyahu since the deal was reached, the document further protested that “not a single nuclear facility will be shut down. Iran will be permitted to continue its advanced centrifuge R&D, and [the issue of] its intercontinental ballistic missile program remains unaddressed.”

Apart from what it called “the significant differences in the parties’ interpretations of the framework – reflected in the conflicting statements and ‘fact sheets’ they issued” — the Israeli document posed the following 10 questions:

1. Why are sanctions that took years to put in place being removed immediately (as the Iranians claim)? This would take away the international community’s primary leverage at the outset of the agreement and make Iranian compliance less likely.

2. Given Iran’s track record of concealing illicit nuclear activities, why does the framework not explicitly require Iran to accept inspections of all installations where suspected nuclear weapons development has been conducted? Why can’t inspectors conduct inspections anywhere, anytime?

3. Will Iran ever be forced to come clean about its past nuclear weaponization activity?

4. What will be the fate of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium?

5. Why will Iran be allowed to continue R&D on centrifuges far more advanced than those currently in its possession?

6. Why does the framework not address Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear payloads?

7. Following Iranian violations of the framework, how effective will be the mechanism to reinstitute sanctions?

8. What message does the framework send to states in the region and around the world when it gives such far-reaching concessions to a regime that for years has defied UNSC resolutions? Why would this not encourage nuclear proliferation?

9. The framework agreement appears to have much in common with the nuclear agreement reached with North Korea. How will this deal differ from the North Korean case?

10. Why is the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade not linked to a change in Iran’s behavior? According to the framework, Iran could remain the world’s foremost sponsor of terror and still have all the restrictions removed. Instead, the removal of those restrictions should be linked to a cessation of Iran’s aggression in the Middle East, its terrorism around the world and its threats to annihilate Israel.”

The document ended with the assertion that “the alternative to this framework is a better deal, one that will significantly dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, bring about a cessation of its aggression in the region and terrorist activities around the world, as well as end its efforts to destroy Israel. The framework deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb. By removing the sanctions and lifting the main restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade, this framework paves Iran’s path to a bomb. The result will be a dramatic increase in the risks of nuclear proliferation and an increase in the chances of a terrible war.”

 

 

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