Signs of rift appear between Israel, US over Iran

Netanyahu seeks more pressure to end nuclear work

“As long as we do not see actions instead of words, the international pressure must continue to be applied,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Associated Press/Pool
“As long as we do not see actions instead of words, the international pressure must continue to be applied,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

JERUSALEM — Just days after the first round of global nuclear talks with Iran, a rift appears to be emerging between Israel and its closest ally, the United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called on the United States to step up the pressure on Iran, even as American officials hinted at the possibility of easing tough economic pressure. Meanwhile, a leading Israeli daily reported the outlines of what could be construed in the West as genuine Iranian compromises in the talks.

The differing approaches could bode poorly for Israel as the talks between six global powers and Iran gain steam in the coming months. Negotiators were upbeat after last week’s talks, and the next round of negotiations is set to begin Nov. 7.


Convinced that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, Netanyahu believes the Iranians are trying to trick the West into easing economic sanctions while still pushing forward with their nuclear program. Iran insists that its program is for peaceful purposes.

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‘‘I think that in this situation as long as we do not see actions instead of words, the international pressure must continue to be applied and even increased,’’ Netanyahu told his Cabinet. ‘‘The greater the pressure, the greater the chance that there will be a genuine dismantling of the Iranian military nuclear program.’’

The speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Ali Larijani, warned Sunday that Iranian lawmakers could call for stepped-up atomic work if the West presses too hard for concessions in ongoing nuclear negotiations.

The message from Larijani appears aimed at both envoys from the West and Iran’s negotiation team, which is led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. It also highlights the political jockeying inside Iran between backers of moderate-leaning President Hassan Rouhani and hard-liners wary of his outreach to Washington.

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to its very survival, citing Iranian references to Israel’s destruction.


Netanyahu says pressure must be maintained until Iran halts all enrichment of uranium, a key step in producing a nuclear weapon; removes its stockpile of enriched uranium from the country; closes suspicious enrichment facilities and shutters a facility that could produce plutonium, another potential gateway to nuclear arms.

Despite Netanyahu’s warnings, there are growing signs that any international deal with Iran will fall short of his demands.

Over the weekend, US officials said the White House was debating whether to offer Iran the chance to recoup billions of dollars in frozen assets if it scales back its nuclear program. The plan would stop short of lifting sanctions, but could nonetheless provide Iran some relief.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said it was premature to talk of easing sanctions. But he stopped short of endorsing the tough Israeli line and suggested the United States would take a more incremental approach in response to concrete Iranian gestures.

Asked whether he was worried the United States might ease the sanctions prematurely, Netanyahu urged against a ‘‘partial deal’’ with Iran. ‘‘I don’t advise doing that,’’ he said on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press.’’


Details from last week’s talks in Geneva have remained tightly guarded, but short-range priorities have been made clear. The United States and its allies seek to roll back Iran’s highest-level uranium enrichment. Iran wants the West to start easing the sanctions.

The Israeli daily Haaretz on Sunday reported what it said were the key Iranian proposals last week.

Citing an unidentified senior Israeli official who had been briefed by the Americans, the newspaper said that Iran is ready to halt all enrichment of 20 percent, limit lower-level enrichment of 5 percent and scale back the number of centrifuges it is operating for enrichment.