Though Secretary of State John Kerry insisted this week that there is “no daylight” between the Israeli government and the Obama administration regarding Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Obama adviser has acknowledged the tension between the leaders of the countries, saying, “We’ve weathered storms like this before in the relationship.”
In an interview Tuesday night with Israel’s Channel 10, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes also appeared to urge the Israeli government not to launch a military strike on Iran while negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program continue over the next six months.
The Israeli reporter said Rhodes was in the Oval Office on Saturday when Obama green-lit the agreement negotiated in Geneva with Iran.
Asked if the current state of relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama was at a “low point,” Rhodes said, “We’ve had previous ups and downs,” such as when Netanyahu had a tense visit in Washington with Obama in 2011.
“We’ve weathered storms like this before in the relationship,” Rhodes said.
Asked if this was the “same” case, Rhodes answered, “This is the same, but we believe we can get through it together, because there are so many things that Israel and the United States have in common.”
“We feel like we have the same objective here preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Rhodes added.
Rhodes did not rule out the possibility that Iran could be granted a right to enrich uranium in a final negotiated agreement. Presently, Iran insists the interim agreement entitles it to enrich uranium.
“We do believe that Iran would have to have some kind of peaceful nuclear program at the end of the day,” Rhodes said.
Asked if this would include the ability to enrich uranium,” Rhodes said: “We would have to agree to that, so there’s no right to enrich. What there is, is the prospect of an agreement in which we define at the negotiating table what that limited program is, what are the constraints, what are the transparency measures, what parts of their infrastructure have to be dismantled so that the world has assurance that they cannot build a nuclear weapon.”
Israel would like to see Iran’s nuclear infrastructure dismantled to guarantee the Islamic Republic, which has expressed a desire to wipe it off the map, cannot develop a doomsday weapon.
Asked if a reported Israeli suggestion that the Iranian nuclear program be dismantled, as Libya agreed to do in 2003, was realistic, Rhodes said that was “unlikely.”
“We believe that it’s unlikely you’d achieve that at the negotiating table over the course of the next six months,” he said.
Rhodes reiterated the administration's opposition to Congress legislating new sanctions against Iran, saying, “We don’t think it’s the right time for new sanctions…[which] could complicate the negotiation.”
Appearing to urge Israel not to carry out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Rhodes said: “Our case to Israel will be, let’s give these negotiations a chance to succeed. A military strike has no guarantee of eliminating the nuclear infrastructure or what they already know how to do and could incentivize them to breakout. We keep all options on the table … but we want to see if we can get this done diplomatically.”
Asked if he was suggesting Israel not attack Iran over the next six months, Rhodes said, “Our view is it’s preferable to solve this problem peacefully at the negotiation table … the prime minister of Israel has to make his own decisions.”
The reporter made a point of explaining that the White House had invited Channel 10 to the White House for the interview, suggesting the administration wants to communicate a message to the Israeli public.
Excerpts of Rhodes’ interview can be seen at this link, in between the Hebrew narration. Rhodes' quotes begin at the 1:22 mark.
(H/T: Times of Israel)