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Israel Slams Iran Nuclear Deal


Israel has already criticized this deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the agreement as a historic mistake. As NPR's Emily Harris reports from Jerusalem, Israel will keep a military option on the table.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Prime Minister Netanyahu not only called this deal a historical mistake, he said the world is in more danger now than before the agreement was signed.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Through Translator) For the first time, the world's leading powers have agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran while ignoring the U.N. Security Council decisions that they themselves led. Sanctions have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be reversed in weeks.

HARRIS: Other government officials followed suit, saying the agreement does not reduce Iran's capabilities or, better from Israel's perspective, dismantle them altogether. But Israeli-Iranian analyst Meir Javedanfar says as an interim deal, this serves Israel's interests by pausing some particularly sensitive work. He argues that this essentially turns back the clock on Iran's nuclear program.

MEIR JAVEDANFAR: It has gone backward by six months because the Iranian nuclear program has to be frozen for six months, which means that Iran, whatever nuclear military program, if it had any, is now six months behind schedule.

HARRIS: Javedanfar called the new inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities unprecedented. But Ephraim Asculai with Israel's Institute for National Security Studies warns that inspectors do only one thing - inspect. Politicians have to act on any information.

EPHRAIM ASCULAI: The IAEA has eyes. It has measurements. It can report to the world what it sees there. The IAEA as such cannot prevent anything.

HARRIS: Asculai worked four decades for Israel's Atomic Energy Commission. Israel is believed to have its own arsenal of nuclear weapons. The Israeli government had been lobbying intensely for a deal with a deal with Iran that is more to its liking. Officials said they hoped they had some influence on the negotiations, but still are unhappy with the agreement. Netanyahu reiterated today that Israel does not see itself as bound by this deal and retains the right to defend itself. Professor Efraim Inbar of Bar-Ilan University says attacking Iran must remain an option.

EFRAIM INBAR: This is one way to make sure there will not be additional cheating on the part of the Iranians. Because if they are caught cheating, Israel, of course, will have the legitimacy to attack.

HARRIS: Now isn't the right time, he says. But if Iran's nuclear capabilities aren't dismantled through negotiations, he believes the world would welcome an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

INBAR: Basically, everybody will be happy that they got rid of this trouble, a nuclear Iran.

HARRIS: There is significant doubt here that a final agreement will actually be reached. But if it is, Israeli officials agree it must spell out clearly that Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.