Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan came to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s defense on Thursday after Secretary of State John Kerry charged that the Israeli leader’s attack on the Iran deal was premature.
“I was astounded to hear John Kerry’s remarks about why the prime minister is criticizing the agreement being formulated in Geneva without waiting for it to be signed. I have not heard such a claim for many years,” Erdan declared.
“This is a country that wants to destroy Israel. What do they expect from an Israeli prime minister? Not to cry out when the knife is in the hand, but only when it is across our throat?”
Speaking at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv, Erdan also commented that leaks in the closed-door discussions between Iran and the West have allowed for more time, during which a “very bad deal,” as Netanyahu has called it, might be improved upon.
“Iranian Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif and his cohorts are going around Geneva, and it is impossible to wipe the smiles off their faces; even they cannot really believe the ease with which they have succeeded in wrecking the sanctions regime.”
Erdan contested the notion that the agreement would be a “first step” deal, as it has been called. “We must not be mistaken; an interim agreement will be a permanent agreement. All those involved in the agreement must understand that the moment Iran becomes a nuclear threshold state, an arms race will begin in the Middle East and regional uncertainty will increase.”
Kerry confirmed on Thursday that he seeks an interim agreement. He explained that the United States disagrees with Israel’s position that sanctions should be tightened, adding that he is “still hopeful” about next week’s talks.
“What we disagree on is not the goal,” he said. “We disagree on a tactic. We believe that you need to take this first step.”
Kerry insisted that he understands Israel’s “deep concerns” about Iran’s nuclear program and that the two allies share the same goal in curbing the perceived threat, although they differ in regard to tactics.
Kerry said he had just spoken with Netanyahu by phone and that the two had spoken several times this week about the Iran issue.
“We’re having a very friendly and civil conversation about this,” Kerry said. “I respect completely his deep concerns, as a prime minister of Israel should have, about the existential nature of this threat to Israel. We understand that.”