As Iran Talks Resume, U.S.-Israel Ties Get Put to the Test

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Gregorio Borgia / Pool / Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, walks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Villa Taverna in Rome on Oct. 23, 2013

Last March, when President Obama swept into Israel determined to patch up the fraught relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the labored effort on both sides was so obvious as to be a bit painful. Israeli television carried every public moment of the visit live, including a midday tour Netanyahu gave Obama of new Israeli inventions. The highlight was the Rewalk technology, a kind of exoskeleton that allows a person who would otherwise be confined to a wheelchair to stand up and walk around.

“Now I can talk eye to eye,” Radi Kaiuf, a paraplegic Israeli veteran, told Obama.

“Well, we gotta get a picture of this,” the visiting American said, and snugged in with Netanyahu beside a gadget that, on top of everything else, captured the essence of their new relationship: awkward and far from natural, yes, but, hey, whatever works.

But eight months later, as talks resume Wednesday in Geneva on the fate of the Iranian nuclear program, Obama and Netanyahu once again are no longer talking eye to eye. Both leaders obviously want to prevent Iran from developing the atomic weapons that Tehran insists it does not even want. But a public rift has opened over the most effective route to blocking the perceived threat. And while Israel has no seat at the Geneva talks, the Jewish state plays a significant role in how they are perceived — especially on Capitol Hill, where already Obama faces so much hawkish skepticism he had to ask lawmakers to hold off on adding additional sanctions to let the talks run their course.

(MORE: Israel Remains Suspicious as Iran Nuclear Talks Stall)

The rift with Israel could come to a head this week, if negotiators complete an agreement that Washington says will only be temporary and Netanyahu warns will become permanent.

It comes down to perspective. All agree that Iran has the basic ingredients of a nuclear weapon. There’s also consensus that Tehran would need very little time — perhaps as little as a month — to assemble one, if it chose to do so. American negotiators say that’s exactly what drives the urgency for an interim agreement — a pact that obliges Iran to cease the most crucial work for the six months the parties say they need to make a more comprehensive bargain. The final pact may well demand more of Iran, but for now, “We need to put some time back on the clock,” a senior administration official said in advance of the first round in October.

Netanyahu says a single, comprehensive deal is the only way forward. He says Washington is dangerously naive — his warm embrace over the weekend of visiting French President François Hollande (“French kissing in the Knesset” ran one headline) was thanks to Paris stiffing up the terms in the last round of talks — and warns that Iran is not to be trusted to honor an interim pact. Look at what happened the last time a temporary deal was attempted, he says: the 2005 temporary halt of its nuclear program ended with Tehran simply resuming a project that had grown more technically advanced and robust while talks with European diplomats droned on without result.

If that happens again, Israel will once again face the question of whether to launch a military strike, notes Michael Herzog, a retired Israeli brigadier who served as chief of staff to Ehud Barak when he was Defense Minister, in Netanyahu’s last term. Barak and Netanyahu together drove the Iranian nuclear issue to the top of the global agenda, not least by repeatedly threatening to launch air strikes against Tehran. “I believe Israel will once again face a decision point whether or not to apply a military option,” Herzog says, adding: “I don’t believe they’re bluffing.”

(MORE: If Iran Can Get This Reactor Online, Israel May Not Be Able to Bomb It)

The gravity of that looming decisions accounts for the sharp, even combative tone used by Israeli leaders during the Geneva talks, Herzog says. “It’s why I believe they react so strongly before the deal is made, in order to avert what they fear will be a bad deal.”

Netanyahu and his ministers also warn that the West’s price of the interim agreement — the release of several billion dollars long frozen by Washington — will shatter enforcement of the economic sanctions that brought Iran to the bargaining table. One Netanyahu loyalist, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, insists the immediate sanctions relief will reach into the tens of billions, figures denied by U.S. officials.

Worst of all, Israeli officials warn, the temporary pact would leave Iran as a “threshold” nuclear power, granting international legitimacy to a nuclear program that retains the capability to sprint to creation of a nuclear weapon. “Nobody is concerned about the Japanese or British nuclear capabilities,” Steinitz said last week. “It’s totally different with Iran. If Iran will remain a threshold country, other countries in its vicinity will try to follow.”

For its part, Iran is girding for a throwdown on the crucial question of whether it has the “right” to enrich uranium. In a YouTube video released Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif solemnly frames the matter as one of “pride” and “integrity.” Some Iranians dryly noted that they couldn’t see what Zarif called “Iran’s message” because their government continues to block YouTube, as well as Facebook and other social media.

MORE: Iran’s Foreign Minister Turns to YouTube to Defend Tehran’s Nuclear Program

15 comments
AjaxLessome
AjaxLessome

Sanctions against Iran should be relaxed only after the machinery and materials necessary to develop a nuclear weapon are destroyed or moved out of the country. Additionally, nuclear negotiations MUST include the release of all Iranian political prisoners including the 7 Camp Ashraf residents taken hostage under the direction of Iran’s religious fascists. The UN, the EU, the U.S. must pressure the government of Iraq until it releases the seven hostages. All of the residents are protected persons under the Geneva Convention. The US and the UN has clear responsibility in protecting them, but failed to do so when it had left the Iranian dissidents living in the camp to the mercy of the Iranian subordinates. Such crimes against humanity must not go unheeded.

 

arvay
arvay

For so very long, this little arrogant, reckless, nuclear-armed tail has wagged to Big Dog.

Now, the Dog finally is taking back control, and the little tail is furious. 

Reality, at long last, is in the driver's seat.

The Cold War is long over, and Israel's role as western surrogate against "communism" is over. 

Not only is the US on the cusp of energy independence, but massive oil discoveries in other parts of the world are turning the region into just another oil puddle. No longer the world's jugular, but a competitor that needs to fit in with the global oil market.

Syria was the inflection point that set the US on a new course, as way out of the mideast quagmire. America -- thanks, ironically to the rabidly pro-Israeli neocons of the Bush administration -- are fed up with interventionist wars. And the US economy would likely buckle under the strains of an even more costly war, not to mention the suicide rate among overstretched US military personnel. 

Western nations are chomping at the bit, ready to leap into the Iranian marketplace. And Iranians, particularly its youth -- are eager to join the rest of the world. 


giannipansensoy
giannipansensoy

David's star over Cebu

Somewhere in Bogo City, 
the typhoon's terrifying memory walks, 
between dead souls and devastated edifices, 
from despair to plague, 
chaos amid total darkness, 
but the light of the star above, 
brighter than the full moon, 
unbelievable, 
perhaps, 
the atmosphere is horrified by the storm.

Beneath the star's light rays, 
side by side, 
Israeli doctors and Iranian nurses, 
hand in hand, 
together are helping hard, 
to revive the lives of Yolanda's dying victims, 
saving them from the clout of hunger.

Because of their deepest sympathy towards the suffering souls, 
feud between them is totally erased from their thoughts, 
the would of failed nuclear issue that separates their countries, 
that's irritating them into annihilating each other, 
is healed with the wounds of the typhoon's destruction, 
quite improbable, 
but feasible.

There will always be sunshine after darkness, 
political adversities and religious barriers between them, 
are blown by the magnitude of devastation, 
this is the time of reconciliation, 
a realization, 
humanity can coexist in peace, 
saving mankind from nuclear holocaust, 
Yolanda is a good omen, 
love is very powerful, 
that's divine.

onemind
onemind

Israel and France understand what is at stake and that Iran cannot be trusted.

(Israel gave) "thanks to Paris stiffing up the terms in the last round of talks — and warns that Iran is not to be trusted to honor an interim pact. Look at what happened the last time a temporary deal was attempted, he says: the 2005 temporary halt of its nuclear program ended with Tehran simply resuming a project that had grown more technically advanced and robust while talks with European diplomats droned on without result."

They have seen this before.Just yesterday the Supreme Ayatollah said Iran will not back up "one iota" from its nuclear program.  How do you reconcile that with the negotiations and relieving immediately any economic pressure on Iran? What I fear is the Obama Administration, under so much criticism for ineptness at home, will take a reckless risk to get a deal for the sake of Obama's own political redemption.A short term gain at a huge risk. For Israel, it is a matter of their own survival, for he rest of the world, avoiding nuclear conflict and or a new nuclear arms race. Every country of the region is silently in agreement with Israel. They do not fear a nuclear threat from Israel. They do fear an Iran that could make such a threat. This is as serious a threat against world peace as exists at this moment. We need to act accordingly and be wise and resolute. America is war weary, but our enemies are not.

ksalicornia@yahoo.com
ksalicornia@yahoo.com

Yet another ruse by the Israeli government to milk the American taxpayer even further.

Z4BS
Z4BS

Israel know temporary deals don't work. They  have been playing this game for a long time stopping any peace process with Palestine to progress by agreeing temporary peace process where they give nothing away.. They agreed Oslo which was a temporary deal and went ahead and ignored all the provisions of. Israel knows that so long as there's a process it buys you time even if you have no intention of compromising.

Titanus
Titanus

Are we really supposed to believe that Israel will attack Iran now?  The US is broke and its people tired of war.  If Israel attacks Iran they will do so alone, however they can count on Hezbollah and Al Qaeda to attack them in addition to hundreds of Iranian missile attacks.  Does Israel ever have any response beside 'we will attack you' when they do not get what they want?  They seem as hostile as all of the other nations in the area.

RobertNguyen
RobertNguyen

Have anyone ever thought that if suddenly Israel decides to severe tie with the US, in one stroke all of  US problems would disappear?


SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

Israel is a nuclear power and refuses to sign the non-proliferation treaty. If you were Iran would you sit still for the double standard? The state of the US-Israel relationship is at as much Netanyahu,s fault. His intransigence on the settlements issue has caused Obama embarrassment.

daridekas
daridekas

The sad truth is that while Iran pretends that is negotiating its nuclears reactors are working in full speeds.

admin2:invetrics

DrJojiCherian
DrJojiCherian

There is no doubt what   " TIME" has in mind.  as is usual Israel's interests. Not  America's.America is  a wonderful country. Freedom for every thing. Even for  being treasonous so blatently