WASHINGTON -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the historic nuclear agreement reached between Iran, the U.S., and five other world powers on Tuesday to be a catastrophe.
Netanyahu’s judgment of the 159-page agreement came before the public release of the text of the deal. He blamed the nuclear agreement on the willingness of the negotiators to reach a deal “at any cost,” a thinly veiled criticism of President Barack Obama, whom the Israeli premier has long sparred with on the topic of Iran’s nuclear program.
In March, the Israeli prime minister traveled to Washington, without an invitation from the White House, to rally Congress against the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. There, he told his enthusiastic audience that the agreement being negotiated in Europe would not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but “would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.”
Since then, Congress has passed legislation that guarantees lawmakers a chance to review the nuclear agreement, and the option to vote the deal up or down. Though the vote is not expected until September, the Israeli government has indicated its intention to lobby lawmakers to vote against the nuclear deal. If two-thirds of Congress passes a resolution of disapproval against the deal, Obama would lose his ability to waive congressionally enacted sanctions, which could upend implementation of the broader nuclear agreement.
Tuesday’s announcement of the nuclear deal with Iran is the result of years of tense negotiations -- including a 17-day marathon round of talks most recently. During this final round of negotiations, Netanyahu ramped up his rhetoric, comparing Iran to the Islamic State and claiming that Iran wants to take over the world.
The day before the conclusion of the final round of nuclear talks, Netanyahu told his Cabinet that the forthcoming nuclear agreement, “paves Iran’s way to many nuclear bombs and gives it hundreds of billions of dollars for its terrorism and conquest machine, thereby endangering the peace of the entire world. That same day, his office launched a Farsi Twitter account, on which he criticized Iran’s behavior in the language spoken in Iran.
“The new account will serve as a tool for conveying our messages directly to Iranian public opinion -- both about Israel and the consequences of a nuclear agreement,” an official in Netanyahu’s office told Haaretz. “It is important to convey information about what Israel is, because they have been brainwashed since 1979. We believe there is room for a wide range of activities and influence."
While Netanyahu’s constant criticism of Iran and the diplomatic efforts to rein in its nuclear program are partially aimed at influencing lawmakers in the U.S., it is also part of a domestic political show. The prime minister currently heads a weak, fragmented government and has come under attack by his political opponents for his failure to prevent the international community from reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran.
“We have a long list of complaints about Netanyahu, but this is without question his worst failure,” said Yitzchak Herzog on Monday, as reported by Arutz Sheva. “We will yet make him give an accounting for failing to force the negotiating nations to take Israel’s issues into consideration,” added Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union party, which is seen as less hawkish than Netanyahu’s Likud.
Yair Lapid, another key member of the opposition, urged Netanyahu to resign on Monday, for failing to convince the U.S. to follow Israel’s demands to walk away from this round of negotiations and push for a deal more amenable to Israel.
“Because of the way he ran this over the last year, the door of the White House was closed to him, half of Congress doesn’t speak to him,” The Times of Israel reported Lapid said.