Update: Senator Ted Cruz is parroting Netanyahu, and saying Iran must recognize Israel as a Jewish state:
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) expressed grave concerns today regarding reports that Secretary of State John Kerry may strike a deal to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for an agreement for that country to temporarily halt its uranium enrichment program.
“If the reports are correct, this is a terrible deal, and it is dangerous for America. …
We should have insisted on good-faith measures before meeting with the Iranians directly, such as the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini and the acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken the extraordinary step of condemning what is happening in Geneva as a ‘very, very bad deal.’ President Obama should not abandon our friend and ally Israel, and he should not cut a deal that endangers the national security of the United States.”
Is this the end of the special relationship? Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu before flying off to Geneva today, and Netanyahu pressured him not to cut any deal with Iran in several public statements.
PM prior to meeting w/Kerry: Kerry said no deal is better than a bad deal. This is a bad deal. I urge him not to rush to sign the bad deal.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) November 8, 2013
Netanyahu also released two angry videos to the press about an anticipated deal with Iran. The latest is above, released just before his meeting Kerry.
“I understand the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva — as well they should because they got everything and paid nothing, everything they wanted. They wanted relief of sanctions after years of grueling sanction regime, they got that. They paid nothing because they are not reducing in any way their nuclear enrichment capability. So Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal. This is a very bad deal and Israel utterly rejects it. And what I’m saying is shared by many many in the region whether or not they express that publicly. Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and defend the security of its people.”
Netanyahu also released this video:
I’m absolutely stunned. I think it’s such a monumental mistake… This is the deal of the century for Iran because Iran is essentially given, and… the air begins to be taken out of the pressure cooker that took years to build in the sanctions regime… Iran would be giving up at best a few days of enrichment time… That’s a big mistake… It is a historic mistake. It is a grievous historic error. The sanctions regime is gone, and Iran gave nothing.
Netanyahu was also obstinate re negotiations with the Palestinians. He said that the Palestinians “refuse to budge” on Israeli security needs (the Jordan valley presumably) and “no amount of pressure” will make him compromise.
BBC reports on the Iranian deal in the making.
US, UK, French and German foreign ministers are making unscheduled trips to Geneva to join talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 delegates.
Details have not been released but Iran is expected to halt some enrichment activity for limited sanctions relief.
“This is not the great big omnibus deal that would lift all sanctions on Iran,” explained [CBS correspondent Elizabeth] Palmer. “This is a first step,” she said, and the purpose would be to build trust so that the negotiations on that much broader deal can begin. “The goal is to reach the starting line, if you like, of that next chapter.”
While the world awaits confirmation of what concessions the West and the Iranians are actually prepared to make, Netanyahu was categorical in defining the emerging agreement as a victory for Tehran.
It’s unclear whether Congress could scuttle the deal with a new round of sanctions. Congressional hawks released statements yesterday slamming the deal. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the deal “would be a significant error in judgment that very likely could have the opposite intended outcome…There can be no concessions whatsoever – no easing of sanctions, no deals – until Iran takes the first verifiable and concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear program.”
The Obama administration has the power to take unilateral steps to ease the crippling sanctions regime, as National Journal‘s Sara Sorcher details here. Meanwhile, the Senate Banking Committee is reportedly holding off on advancing new sanctions legislation until the conclusion of the Geneva talks.
At Haaretz, Chemi Shalev says the deal may portend the end of the special relationship, with a “fierce diplomatic storm” between the countries.
The American Jewish community itself would also face a potentially divisive and acrimonious internal debate. American Jews are likely to be split almost evenly between those who will want to “give peace a chance” and others who will cite Netanyahu’s “Iranian deal of the century” description. Most of the American Jewish establishment is likely to line up behind Netanyahu, but most Democratic-voting American Jews may prefer to back the Administration’s diplomatic efforts.
Already this week there’s been a split in the lobby: AIPAC and the AJC opposed any effort to lift sanctions, while J Street and the ADL supported the administration’s efforts.
No statement yet from the State Department on the Kerry briefing with Netanyahu. Kerry in Jerusalem yesterday hinted at what’s coming:
And it seems to me that we have an obligation to the world before you use military force you need to exhaust every possibility of diplomacy. That is an obligation. I have fought in a war. I know what happens when you go to war. War is the failure of diplomacy, and we need to try to do everything we can to exhaust diplomacy. The President has taken no option off the table. We are prepared to do what is necessary. Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.
Meantime, the New York Times reports that Kerry is growing impatient with Israeli intransigence.
At times this week, Mr. Kerry has appeared frustrated with the Israelis. On Wednesday, he appealed to the Israeli authorities to keep a lid on new settlement construction during the negotiations.
In his interview with Israeli and Palestinian journalists, Mr. Kerry used unusually pointed language in prodding the Israelis. “The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos,” he said. “I mean, does Israel want a third intifada?”
PS. Kerry was interviewed by Maher Shalabi of Palestinian broadcasting corporation, and decried the settlement construction even as the US is doing nothing about it– and also said that a one-state solution is impossible. Shalabi indicated rising Palestinian support for such an outcome.
We do not think you should be doing settlements. We, the United States, say the same thing. We do not believe the settlements are legitimate. We think they’re illegitimate. And we believe that the entire peace process would, in fact, be easier if these settlements were not taking place. Now, that’s our position. That is also the position – but we knew that there was not going to be a freeze. We didn’t negotiate a freeze. So there’s a difference here between knowing something may happen and objecting to it. The Palestinians profoundly object to it. The international community objects to it. The United States policy has always been that the settlements are illegitimate, and we believe this process would be much easier if we didn’t have the tension that is created by settlements.
Let me ask you something: How – if you say you’re working for peace and you want peace and a Palestine that is a whole Palestinian that belongs to the people who live there, how can you say we’re planning to build in the place that will eventually be Palestine? So it sends a message that somehow perhaps you’re not really serious. Now, we understand the pressures that exist, and we understand that within the government there are people who have a different view. So until you arrive at a peace agreement, that issue will not be settled. If you arrive at a peace agreement, everybody will understand where Israel is and everybody will understand where Palestine is.
MR. SHALABI: Mr. Secretary, the message that the Palestinians receiving from building settlement, that the two-state solution question – it’s a big question mark on two-state solution. Do you think that – and also, I have statistics that even raising number Palestinian start to say two-state solution is not (inaudible) anymore and they will go for a one-state solution.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there is no one-state solution. There’s no such thing as a one-state solution. You cannot have peace on any one side with the concept of a one-state solution. It just won’t happen. You can’t subsume other people into one state against their will. And it simply is not a reality. And anybody who’s talking about it doesn’t know really what – it’s just not possible. So you’ll have a perpetual state of conflict if somebody tries to achieve that.