Netanyahu gets special audience on nuclear talks

Israel/Palestine
on 12 Comments

Catherine Ashton, the EU Foreign Affairs Chief, visited Jerusalem yesterday to consult with Benjamin Netanyahu about the Iran negotiations.  Ashton is a key player in the nuclear talks.  Apparently presenting an Israeli united front, cabinet ministers Ehud Barak, Avigdor Lieberman and Netanyahu’s new coalition partner, Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, also attended the meeting.  According to Haaretz , Netanyahu repeated his government’s rigid view:

During the meeting, the Israelis presented a rigid set of demands for the Iranians, a senior Israeli official said. Netanyahu and the three ministers told Ashton that Israel’s position leading up to the Baghdad talks is that the talks will be considered as progress only if they would yield an Iranian guarantee – with a clear timetable – to halt uranium enrichment, to remove all enriched uranium out of Iranian soil, and to dismantle the underground enrichment facility in Fordo, which is near Qom.

How appropriate is it for Ashton to travel to Israel in order to brief the Israeli Prime Minister?   After all, Israel is not an official party to the talks and has made it known that it is hoping that the diplomatic effort will fail.   Considering the enmity between the Israelis and Iranians, it is doubtful if these public consultations will inspire trust in Tehran.

The Ashton trip to Jerusalem was apparently arranged by Yaakov Amidror, who last week toured European capitals consulting with officials involved in the negotiations.  Apparently, one of the results of his tour was convincing the EU foreign policy chief to come to Israel.

The Israeli demand that Iran not be permitted to enrich uranium even at lower levels is probably a deal breaker.  Iran has always insisted that it be permitted to enrich at least at low levels while it has agreed to stop enrichment at higher levels.  The optimism that was generated after the initial round of the talks was reported to be based on a framework of allowing Iran to enrich, but only at lower levels.    The actual six power position on Iranian uranium enrichment is not clear.

The initial round of the current talks was all about building confidence, according to officials.  I wonder how the recent insertion of the Israelis into the mix is going to affect Iranian confidence concerning the trustworthiness and reliability of the Western powers.

If the leaders of the six powers cannot stop the Israelis from making provocative statements geared to sabotaging the talks,  the Iranians may conclude that  these same world leaders could not prevent Israel from vetoing any agreement by initiating a unilateral attack.

12 Responses

  1. Bumblebye
    May 10, 2012, 12:20 pm

    Can’t find where I read it at the time, but Ashton was credited (and denounced by, ahem, one side) for getting the 5 week hiatus. Possibly Bibi and Co. will find she has balls of steel, while their iron balls are rusting. I certainly hope so, since Israel’s demands of Iran go waaaay beond the NPT rules.

  2. HarryLaw
    May 10, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Israel– Stop them doing what they are legally entitled to do, while we continue to produce nuclear weapons outside all nuclear treaties. Ashton– Yes, we agree, I’ll do my best.

    • pabelmont
      May 11, 2012, 10:14 am

      Yes, stop them from doing what they are legally entitled to do WHILST Israel continues settlements, the wall, the siege — all arguably illegal — without USA’s or EU’s naysaying. (But it is power nowadays, not law, that counts, and the question for us is how to stir up the EU governments to oppose these Israeli “illegalities” and, by opposing, change them to illegalities (without quotes) (and by opposing end them, of course).

  3. Dan Crowther
    May 10, 2012, 2:32 pm

    Isnt it more likely that it was “the west” that was using this very public trip to israel as a way to further threaten/intimidate the iranians, ahead of the “talks” in baghdad?

  4. Chaos4700
    May 10, 2012, 6:25 pm

    To be fair, who else knows more about the unsanctioned pursuit and profligate trafficking of nuclear weapons than the Israeli government? They’ve veritably made an art form out of making nuclear threats against other people’s civilian populations.

  5. ToivoS
    May 10, 2012, 8:12 pm

    I don’t think this meeting is important in any way. Obama has already tipped his hand that the US will agree to Iranian enrichment for its nuclear reactors. Israel’s demands are just nonsense. Nor will the EU go against Obama on this point.

    I simply see this whole exercise as another symptom of Israeli desperation. They are becoming more and more isolated and irrelevant on the world stage. They are crying for attention. Ashton is doing no more than placating the spoiled child hoping to avoid a worse tantrum.

  6. CloakAndDagger
    May 10, 2012, 11:33 pm

    The Israeli demand that Iran not be permitted to enrich uranium even at lower levels is probably a deal breaker. Iran has always insisted that it be permitted to enrich at least at low levels while it has agreed to stop enrichment at higher levels. The optimism that was generated after the initial round of the talks was reported to be based on a framework of allowing Iran to enrich, but only at lower levels.

    Exactly, Ira. This is what I have been predicting as the “sabotage” scenario for the May talks. Everyone knows that if the talks are entered with the above as the demanded outcome, the sabotage is complete – which is precisely what the Israelis want. That, and the closure of Fordo.

    The fact they were able to coerce Ashton into coming to Israel is baffling. She must know that it lowers her credibility with the Iranians, and yet she went. The voice in my head says that Obama had something to do with it.

    Why?

    Well look at the two possible outcome of the talks:

    1. We reconcile with Iran and allow them low-grade refinement in exchange for a lifting, or at least easing of sanctions.
    2. The talks blow up

    If #1 were to come about, the full fury of the Israel lobby would be unleashed on Obama during the election season. For a president for whom getting re-elected is more important than doing the right thing, this would be a disaster as his poll numbers continue to slide.

    So, his best strategy is to make #2 happen, in the hopes that things could be made to stumble along until after the elections, at which point (in his mind) he could do the right thing.

    The folly of pursuing #2 is that the same Israel lobby could drag us into war with Iran. As I had claimed in an earlier post, I don’t believe that Israel will attack Iran, instead they would instigate a false-flag attack on American assets, and congress and the Israel lobby would do the rest to force Obama into attacking Iran.

    I bet Obama knows that he could be coerced into war with Iran, and hopefully he is smart enough to realize that unlike other war presidents, this may not result in a boost to his poll numbers. He has already been waving his hawk-credentials with Afghanistan, and as killer of Osama Bin Laden and his drone warfare in Yemen and Pakistan, so the point of diminishing return was reached a long time ago. A war-weary, unemployed, and homeless nation, would punish him at the voting booth.

    There is only one possible way for him to escape from the corner that he has painted himself into – and that is to go to the nation and lay it all out there. That referendum would not only save his sorry hide, but would also restore the nation, and totally demolish the Israel lobby and its legion of congressional sayanim.

    Is that likely to happen? As Annie said: “probably sooner than pigs flying, but not by much”.

    I agree. Check and mate.

  7. piotr
    May 11, 2012, 12:24 am

    Cloak and dagger: I read that Obama has a scant edge over Romney, and the public seem to trust Romney more on economy and Obama more on foreign policy.

    The bottom line seems to be that no one is certain what would do good for economy, but Romney had some “hands on experience”. But on foreign policy Obama surely sounds less insane.

    Iranians may have their faults but they are not yokels. They do not need “trust building measures”, they need at the very minimum that EU drops their sanctions. And 5% enrichment. Of course, if EU position in the next round of talks will be drastically different from the unanimous plea of Lieberman, Barak, Mofaz and Netanyahu, all the better.

    In the meantime, Lady Ashton is showing sensitivity and noting concerns. With all due respect to her, this is her job description. For which she was roundly condemned about a month ago by Lieberman, Netanyahu and the entire Israeli press (except Ha’aretz and some unpatriotic websites). I suspect that the Lady had to go through a number of perfumed hankies to survive these meetings.

    • CloakAndDagger
      May 11, 2012, 1:18 am

      piotr:

      The bottom line seems to be that no one is certain what would do good for economy, but Romney had some “hands on experience”. But on foreign policy Obama surely sounds less insane.

      There is not much of a difference between the two, rhetorics notwithstanding, except that Mitt is more likely to toe the Israeli line, and Obama in a second term might be less constrained than Mitt in his first term.

      The only person who could provide us some hope is Ron Paul. If by some miracle he can pull off the Republican nomination (and his recent delegate wins hint that a possibility exists), he would easily win against Obama. Of course, that possibility makes him a target for the Israel lobby, which has successfully denied him media coverage, while the RNC has been busily committing election fraud.

    • CloakAndDagger
      May 11, 2012, 2:18 am

      A great article about Ron Paul’s strategy. Some of the comments are worth reading as well.

      link to theblaze.com

  8. piotr
    May 11, 2012, 12:35 am

    Haaretz: Ashton’s visit to Israel is also slightly unusual. As opposed to all of her previous visits, Ashton’s bureau refrained from officially announcing the visit or responding to journalists’ questions on the topic.

    This is indeed a bit strange. There exists a diplomatic code where talks are characterized as productive (meaning that they were not), frank (no blows were exchanged, but barely so) etc.

  9. Shingo
    May 11, 2012, 5:15 am

    The Israeli demand that Iran not be permitted to enrich uranium even at lower levels is probably a deal breaker.

    Of course it is and that’s precisely how it is intended – to break the deal. Israel want the talks to fail. The last thing Bibbi wants to see is a reproachment between Tehran and Washington.

    The other last thing they want to see is for Iran to be removed from the headlines, as this will mean the IP conflict moves back to centre stage.

    Bibbi will do anything to prevent that.

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