Wednesday

19th Feb 2020

Israel denounces US and EU's Iran diplomacy

  • Netanyahu: "This deal doesn't block Iran’s path to the bomb, it paves Iran’s path to the bomb" (Photo: John Boehner)

The Israeli PM’s anti-Iran speech made a big noise in Washington, but had no immediate impact on US or EU nuclear diplomacy.

Republican Party congressmen, and some Democrats, in the US assembly gave Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu a roaring endorsement on Tuesday (3 March).

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  • The event made Netanyahu look important ahead of Israeli elections (Photo: John Boehner)

The Israeli leader said the US and EU-brokered non-proliferation deal, currently being finalised in Switzerland, will “pave the way” for Iran to get nuclear weapons within a “year”, or maybe within “weeks”, if Tehran decides to do so.

He compared Iran to Nazi Germany, and to Isis, the apocalyptic Islamist cult in Iraq and Syria.

He also described Iran as a threat to Israel, to US citizens, and to “all humanity”, adding “the days when Jewish people remain passive in the face of genocidal enemies are over”.

US president Barack Obama boycotted Netanyahu’s visit. More than 50 congressmen from the ruling Democratic Party also boycotted the speech.

They did it because they saw it as politicking ahead of Israeli elections.

They also saw it as a Republican attempt to discredit Obama, with the Netanyahu event organised by the Republican speaker in Congress against White House wishes.

For its part, Iran reacted mildly.

Its UN ambassador, Gholamali Khoshroo, wrote in the New York Times that Netanyahu’s “scaremongering” is “a smoke screen that relegates the Palestinian question to the margins”. He added that Israeli “aggression and … occupation” of Palestine feeds Isis-type radicalism.

But the event did not disrupt the so-called E3+3 nuclear talks.

US secretary of state John Kerry told media in Geneva on Tuesday: "We're working away. Productively”.

The EU foreign relations chief, Federica Mogherini, who chairs the E3+3 meetings after her predecessor, Catherine Ashton, became her unpaid advisor, sided with Obama.

"Spreading fears is not helpful at this stage," she said on the Netanyahu speech, AFP reports.

Its immediate impact on E3+3 aside, the Obama-Netanyahu rift does pose questions for US, and by extension, EU policy in the Middle East.

Analysts say it makes Netanyahu less likely to launch air strikes on Iran - an option he has repeatedly mentioned - while Obama is in power.

It also makes Obama less likely to try to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks if Netanyahu is re-elected.

Alon Ben-Meir, an international relations scholar at New York University, says the EU, in any case, appears happy to hang on to the coat-tails of US policy.

“For all intents and purposes, the US has assumed the leading role and Iran also understands that only the US will have, in the final analysis, the last word on any [nuclear] deal that the parties may agree upon”, he told EUobserver.

He added that the depth of the US-Israel rift shouldn’t be exaggerated.

The State Department, one week prior to Netanyahu’s inflammatory visit, asked Congress for another $3 billion in aid for Israel.

Ben-Meir noted that Obama and Netanyahu fundamentally agree that Iran must be stopped from establishing hegemony in the region.

“The Obama administration … is currently developing a strategy of containment not related only to the prospect that Iran may obtain [nuclear] weapons, but also on how to contain the fallout of a potential US military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities should that option become necessary", he said.

He also said there are limits to how far the US will push Israel to make peace with Palestine.

“The US, not now or at any time in the future, will impose sanctions on Israel, nor would it encourage the EU to do so”.

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