Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a veiled swipe at the Obama administration Sunday, saying it’s “astonishing” that nuclear negotiations are continuing with Iran even after revelations last week that Iran continues to withhold information regarding the possible military purposes of its nuclear program.
“It is astonishing that even after the recent [International Atomic Energy Agency] report determined that Iran is continuing to hide the military components of its nuclear program, the nuclear talks are with it are proceeding,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting. “Not only are they continuing, there is an increased effort to reach a nuclear agreement in the coming days and weeks.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during a swearing-in ceremony for Israel's new chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, at the prime minister's Jerusalem offices, Feb. 16, 2015. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)
Netanyahu warned that “the coming month is critical," because “a framework agreement is liable to be signed that will allow Iran to develop the nuclear capabilities that threaten our existence.”
The Obama administration for weeks has been criticizing Netanyahu both publicly and privately over his acceptance of an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to address a joint session of Congress in early March to present his concerns over the possibly imminent deal, which Netanyahu described as “dangerous.”
“The agreement that is being formulated between Iran and the major powers is dangerous for Israel and therefore I will go to the U.S. next week in order to explain to the American Congress, which could influence the fate of the agreement, why this agreement is dangerous for Israel, the region and the entire world," the Israeli leader said, according to a transcript on the prime minister’s website.
The Times of Israel characterized Netanyahu’s hope that Congress could thwart a bad deal “a jab at the executive branch.”
The prime minister expressed dismay that international negotiators continue to engage with Iran even as it tries to “increase its foothold on Israel’s borders” through terrorist proxies in Lebanon and Syria.
“Alongside Iran's direct guidance of Hezbollah's actions in the north and Hamas' in the south, Iran is trying to also to develop a third front on the Golan Heights via the thousands of Hezbollah fighters who are in southern Syria and over which Iran holds direct command,” Netanyahu said. “The fact that Iran is continuing its murderous terrorism that knows no borders ... [has] not prevented the international community from continuing to talk with Iran about a nuclear agreement that will allow it to build the industrial capacity to develop nuclear weapons."
Secretary of State John Kerry was traveling to Geneva Sunday for a new round of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
On Saturday, Kerry said that “significant gaps” remained between the sides and warned the U.S. was ready to walk away from the talks if Tehran doesn’t agree to terms demonstrating that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.