September 5, 2023 | Yediot Aharonot

Three angles regarding the agreement taking shape between the United States and Iran

The Israeli government must make preventing Iran’s nuclearization its most important task and ask the American government for long-term agreements. It’s still not too late.
September 5, 2023 | Yediot Aharonot

Three angles regarding the agreement taking shape between the United States and Iran

The Israeli government must make preventing Iran’s nuclearization its most important task and ask the American government for long-term agreements. It’s still not too late.

*This article was originally published in Hebrew

The Israeli angle: Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office made a laconic announcement: “Israel’s position is known, namely that arrangements that do not dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will not stop its nuclear program and will only give it money that will go to Iran-supported terrorist groups.

What lies behind this announcement? Something larger than meets the eye. At issue is an Israeli admission that the U.S. succeeded, after long efforts, in reaching understandings with Iran —  for all intents and purposes an agreement according to which Iran will commit itself not to enrich uranium to the 90% level and will agree to the return of monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  In exchange for this agreement, Iran will receive about $10 billion from the funds that were frozen through American sanctions. The funds, ostensibly intended to serve only humanitarian purposes, will allow the regime to divert its other funds for any purpose it wishes, and there is good reason to assume that these funds will serve to increase regional destabilization and fund terror groups.

In addition, as part of the agreement, two of the open cases against Iran at the IAEA were recently closed. These were cases in which prohibited nuclear activities, revealed in the wake of information received from the nuclear archive in 2018, were being investigated. The closing of these files only strengthens the regime’s sense that it can continue to deceive the international community regarding its true intentions.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who openly and resolutely opposed the nuclear deal, in issuing a weak and ineffectual statement, is signaling to the U.S. that he is ready to agree to this dangerous step. Why is he doing this? Why is he acting so differently compared to a decade ago?

In public, spokesmen for the Prime Minister will explain that the understandings do not bind Israel. However, through their silence, they tacitly agree to this agreement while holding out hope for an achievement in the form of a U.S.-brokered normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia and an invitation to Netanyahu for an official visit to the White House.

The American angle: During former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to the White House, and during President Biden’s visit to Israel in July 2022, the President pledged that U.S. policy was to prevent Iran from reaching a nuclear weapon, to achieve a “longer and stronger” agreement with Iran, and to support Israel’s right to defend itself on its own if it came to that.

And yet, it is now being made public that in recent months, the U.S. has actuality arrived at a narrow and reduced agreement, which it calls “less-for-less.”  In effect, the U.S. is abandoning both the lengthening of Iran’s break-out time for a bomb and the leverage at its disposal. The White House has made do with a short-term agreement that in the medium- and long-term endangers its ability to prevent Iran from advancing towards a nuclear weapon.

Why is the Biden administration doing this?  In public, the U.S. will claim that these are only understandings that do not disturb the efforts toward a new agreement.  But in private, the U.S. wants the Iran issue to go away before the presidential election. And by using the definition “understandings,” the White House believes it can avoid discussion and debate in Congress, where the administration expects to meet heavy criticism from Republicans as well as some Democrats.

From a personal angle: The current situation is unacceptable. What is expected now from the Israeli government is to once again define and clarify its priorities.  Instead of declaring that preventing Iranian nuclearization is its most important task, above and beyond all other political or security matters, Netanyahu is signaling to the American government that promoting normalization with Saudi Arabia is more important, while also proposing a defense alliance with the U.S. that Israel does not need.

At the same time, unfortunately, Netanyahu and his coalition continue to promote the judicial overhaul that is tearing Israel apart from within. This comes alongside unacceptable attacks by extremists in his government against the heads of the security services and their personnel. This is eroding Israeli security.

But it is not too late for Israel to regain the initiative.  First: Israel needs to ask the administration to apply pressure on Iran and reach long-term agreements to prevent its nuclearization. Second: Israel must reach the required level of military readiness to stop the Iranian nuclear program, to maintain the full capability of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli Air Force. Indeed, Israel must demonstrate its strength so that the Iranians will know that Israel will not hesitate to attack its nuclear facilities if necessary.

In order for these two things to happen, we must return to an agenda of sanity and loyalty to the state above partisan political considerations. We must focus on the root problems. We must stop the separation and division. Most of all – to return to building a common future.

Dr. Eyal Hulata is Israel’s former National Security Advisor and head of the National Security Council. He is the senior international fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington D.C.


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