Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke via web and telephone to 10,000 American Jews on Tuesday, telling them to oppose the Iran deal. “This is the time to stand up and be counted,” the Israeli leader said from Israel. “Oppose this dangerous deal.”
The webcast and conference call were hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America, ahead of a meeting between Jewish leaders and President Barack Obama Tuesday, in which he was expected to lobby for their suppor. Netanyahu, however, laid out Israel’s case against the deal.
Netanyahu argued that the Iran deal does not close off its pathways to a nuclear bomb. Instead, it allows Iran to become a nuclear power by complying with the deal and building bombs when the deal expires. It also could allow Iran to become a nuclear power by cheating on the deal, he argued. Neither Israeli nor American intelligence can detect Iranian cheating with certainty, he said.
“No one can credibly claim” that the deal blocks Iran’s covert path,” he said–a subtle rebuke of the Obama administration’s talking points on verification in the deal.
In addition, Netanyahu argued that the hundreds of millions of dollars in sanctions relief that Iran will enjoy under the deal could allow a terror group to become a “terrorist superpower.” Even a fraction of Iran’s windfall would be a “cash jackpot” for terror, he said. Netanyahu also addressed some of the claims made by the Obama administration about Israel’s own position on the deal. It was “outrageous,” he said, to claim that critics of the deal wanted war. Israel wanted to prevent war, he said. Furthermore, he acknowledged that while there are a few Israelis who support the deal–Israel is not just a democracy, but a “Jewish democracy,” he joked–70% of the public agreed with him. He cited opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who is a determined political foe of Netanyahu and his party, yet also opposes the Iran nuclear deal.
If Congress rejects the deal, Netanyahu said, the sanctions against Iran would not collapse, and war would not be inevitable. Rather, he said, U.S. sanctions would be strong enough to pressure Iran, and Iran would eventually come back to the table because it needs a deal more.