Israel's Netanyahu blasts Iran nuclear deal as paving way for a bomb

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Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu demands foreign powers further "roll back" Iran's nuclear capabilities

Israeli leaders lashed out at Thursday's announcement of a framework agreement to curb Iran's nuclear development with demands that the foreign powers negotiating the deal further roll back Tehran's programs and warnings of possible military strikes on Iran if they don't.

"A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in a statement after speaking by telephone with President Obama.

"This deal would legitimize Iran's nuclear program, bolster Iran's economy, and increase Iran's aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond," Netanyahu said of the pact forged over more than a year of tense negotiations and announced Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Even before details of the agreement were disclosed in news briefings by the brokers from the six major powers involved, Netanyahu demanded via Twitter that "any deal must significantly roll back Iran's nuclear capabilities."

The Israeli leader reiterated accusations that Iran was backing Shiite Muslim militants in unrest plaguing Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.

"Such a deal would not block Iran's path to the bomb.  It would pave it," Netanyahu insisted. "It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war."

Netanyahu was quoted by the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday as claiming an Iranian general had "brazenly declared" a day earlier that Tehran believes "Israel’s destruction is nonnegotiable."

"Evidently giving Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable,” the prime minister said. “This is unconscionable.”

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz denounced the agreement unveiled in Lausanne as "disconnected from the sad reality" of violence gripping the region.

Steinitz also put the brokers of the agreement on notice that Israel would continue to work against the plan to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons as negotiations continue through June to draft the formal documents. The agreement calls for sanctions relief in exchange for Iranian concessions on uranium enrichment and spent nuclear fuel storage.

"Since the declaration is far from being a real agreement, we will continue in our efforts to explain and persuade the world in the hope of preventing a bad agreement, or at least to insert corrections and improvements,” Steinitz announced in Jerusalem.

Steinitz added his voice to those of other Israeli leaders opposed to any relief of European and U.S. sanctions on Iran, warning that Israel would consider military action against Iranian facilities if it believed its security was at risk.

Asked on Israel Radio whether he would support a military option in the face of U.S. opposition to such a strike, Steinitz replied: “If we have no choice, we have no choice.”

"I don't want to talk about a military option, other than to say that it exists,” Steinitz said, reminding the audience that Israel attacked a nuclear reactor being built in Iraq in 1981 in spite of U.S. opposition.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has also lamented the "bad deal" emerging with Iran over its nuclear facilities.

Lawmaker Omer Bar Lev, a member of the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee, told Israeli media that, from the detailed report offered by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, "this is, as we feared, an agreement that is not good for Israel."

Bar Lev said the main danger of the emerging deal was that if Iran chose to develop a nuclear weapon it could do so in less than a year. But he also criticized Netanyahu for weakening Israel's voice in the negotiations between Iran and the six powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany -- by antagonizing Israel's allies.

"The mission now is to change the policy, to try to rehabilitate relations with the Obama administration as much as possible and in this way influence the final agreement that is to be signed in three months,” the lawmaker said.

Times staff writer Williams reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Sobelman from Jerusalem.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

4:25 p.m.: This story has been updated to include further comment from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This story was originally published at 1:38 p.m.

 

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