Fix or nix the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu demands ahead of Trump meeting

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks a meeting with businessmen in Buenos Aires, on September 12, 2017. Netanyahu, who is accompanied by a 30-member delegation of Israeli business leaders on his two-day official visit to Argentina, said Israel was an "innovation nation" eager to share opportunities with Argentina in agriculture, water, IT, cyber security and health. / AFP PHOTO / Eitan ABRAMOVICHEITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images
Eitan ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Iranian nuclear deal is “bad” and needs to be fixed or canceled.

JERUSALEM — The Iranian nuclear deal is ‘‘bad’’ and needs to be fixed or canceled, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of a visit to the United States, where he is expected to meet President Trump and push for changes.

An Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the discussions, said the government’s main point of contention is the so-called sunset clause, which sets expiration dates on limits imposed on Iran’s nuclear program.

Changes to those provisions are among several demands Netanyahu will present to Trump during their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, according to a report Wednesday on Israel’s Army Radio.


Israel’s opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal is nothing new, but analysts say Netanyahu likely sees a new window of opportunity to change it. Global concern over North Korea’s nuclear program is mounting, while Trump has repeatedly signaled a desire to kill the Iran deal.

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The new impetus comes as Israel nervously watches Iran, and its proxy force Hezbollah, build its presence in neighboring Syria, where they are fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Netanyahu has accused Iran of building sites to produce missiles in both Syria and Lebanon.

‘‘Our position is straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it — or cancel it. This is Israel’s position,’’ Netanyahu said in Argentina on Tuesday night as he toured South America before traveling to New York for the General Assembly.

According to the agreement’s ‘‘sunset clause,’’ Iran will be able to increase the number of its operating centrifuges beyond the current limit of 5,060 after 10 years. Israel would like to see this time frame extended or made indefinite.

Other restrictions, including a 300-kilogram cap on Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, last 15 years.


Netanyahu has spoken often about how the agreement in its current format reduces the breakout time for Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. After 10 years, he has said, this breakout time will have shrunk to zero.

According to the Army Radio report, Netanyahu will also ask Trump to prevent Iran from conducting research in the nuclear field and developing advanced-stage centrifuges, with much higher power.

In addition, the report said, Israel will demand that Iran cease developing long-range missiles and add a clause limiting Iran’s support of organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, that Israel and the United States consider terrorist groups.

Spokesmen for the Foreign Ministry and prime minister’s office refused to confirm whether Netanyahu would raise these issues with Trump. But Yaakov Nagel, former director of Israel’s National Security Council, said in a radio interview that these demands are nothing new and are in keeping with Israel’s position from the beginning of negotiations over the deal.

‘‘Israel has not changed its position,’’ said Nagel. ‘‘Even when the agreement was signed, we said there were three or four clauses that were really bad. The deal that exists basically gives Iran the right to develop uranium.’’


In July, following a meeting between Trump and his senior security advisers, his administration told Congress that Iran has been complying with the nuclear deal.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, pointed to breaches in the amount of heavy water that Iran was allowed to have and refusal to open up all its sites for inspection as grounds for labeling Iran as noncompliant.

With deep concern over North Korea’s nuclear tests, there is currently an ‘‘opportunity’’ to send a message over the Iranian threat, said Yossi Kuperwasser, a researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former director of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

‘‘It’s clear that if we don’t do anything, Iran will become a new North Korea, except more dangerous,’’ he said.

Speaking at a counterterrorism conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett called on the United States to throw its full economic weight behind sanctioning Iran.

Meanwhile, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said the prime minister must demand that Trump freeze, change or cancel the agreement.

‘‘The lesson to be learned from the Korean case is that dialogue and compromise with dictatorships seeking nuclear capability, rather than decisive action, ultimately leads to crossing the threshold and changing the rules of the game,’’ he said.