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A new Iranian nuclear agreement poses a threat to Israel

By Yoni Ben Menachem
web posted June 19, 2023

While the United States and Iran have denied ongoing negotiations for a temporary nuclear agreement, Jerusalem refuses to accept these denials. It is believed that two Arab countries, including Oman, are mediating between the U.S. and Iran. Israel is deeply concerned about the potential outcome of these negotiations, even if they take a long time to materialize.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visits the Iranian centrifuges in Tehran, Iran, June 11, 2023.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visits the Iranian centrifuges in Tehran, Iran, June 11, 2023.

According to senior officials in Jerusalem, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, the Minister of Strategic Affairs, expressed their worries about the Iranian issue following their recent meeting with Jake Sullivan, the U.S. National Security Advisor, in Washington.

Israeli sources claim that the secret negotiations between the United States and Iran for a new nuclear agreement are based on the principle of "less for less." This means reaching a temporary agreement on only specific issues that both parties can agree upon. In this case, the focus is on Iran halting uranium enrichment in exchange for releasing its frozen funds in the West, which amount to several hundred billion dollars.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also addressed this topic during a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who had just concluded a visit to Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu conveyed Israel's opposition to any U.S. agreement with Iran and emphasized that such an agreement would not bind Israel.

Jerusalem fears that the Biden administration may condition the promotion of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia on Israel's acceptance of a new nuclear agreement between the superpowers and Iran.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, where they discussed various matters including the potential normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Saudi officials have indicated that there are significant obstacles to advancing the issue. The Americans are hesitant to meet Saudi conditions, which include supplying a uranium enrichment facility, providing F-35 aircraft, and giving Saudi Arabia the same guarantees as a member state in NATO has in exchange for a normalization agreement with Israel.

The Palestinian issue also poses significant obstacles. During Blinken's visit to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said: "We believe that normalization with Israel will benefit everyone, but without peace for the Palestinian people and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, the gains from normalization with Israel will be limited."

Senior officials in Jerusalem are concerned about Israel's inability to influence the Biden administration and Congress regarding the Iranian nuclear threat. With the Democratic Party in control of the White House and the Senate, which has been critical of the Israeli government's policies, especially on the Palestinian issue, Israel will struggle to rally opposition in Congress against a new nuclear agreement with Iran.

Additionally, European countries such as Germany, France, and Great Britain are not likely to oppose such an agreement.

A new interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers poses several dangers to Israel:

  1. A. The agreement is expected to lift the West's sanctions against Iran.

  2. While the agreement may temporarily halt uranium enrichment, Iran is already on the verge of becoming a nuclear-capable nation.

    During this period, Iran will likely continue its development of nuclear weapons technology and ballistic missile programs.

  3. may also complete the process of burying its nuclear facilities deep underground to protect them from potential airstrikes.

  4. The agreement would immediately provide $20 billion to Iran, with several hundred billion dollars to follow. With this influx of funds, Iran could strengthen its military capabilities and those of its proxies in the Middle East.

  5. It would be challenging for Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities while Iran is engaged in a new international nuclear agreement with the world powers.

However, some senior officials in the Israeli security establishment believe that a new temporary nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers might be the lesser of two evils compared to the current situation, where Iran continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions unchecked. ESR

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.


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