Israelis Will Join With U.S. Opponents to Fight Iran Nuke Deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel delivers joint statements to the media on Tuesday in Jerusalem. Netanyahu described the agreement reached by Iran and major world powers on Tehran's nuclear program as a historic mistake and said he would do what he could to block Iran's nuclear ambitions. Ahikam Seri/Pool/Reuters

After weeks of negotiations, an agreement has been reached between Iran and the U.S., U.K., Russia, China, France and Germany. On Monday, as it was already clear that an agreement was very near, the political recriminations began in Israel.

Leaders of the opposition, Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) party and Yitzhak Herzog of the HaMachane HaTzioni (Zionist Camp) party, vigorously attacked the agreement and verbally assaulted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (with Lapid calling on Netanyahu to resign, since he failed to stop the deal with Iran). Former National Security Advisor Uzi Arad, who had previously worked for Netanyahu, called for a National Commission of Inquiry.

On the Israeli government's side, reacting to the reaching of an understanding with Iran even before there was word of an agreement, Netanyahu bashed the negotiators, declaring at a meeting of the Likud:

Even over the weekend, as Iran continued to receive more and more concessions at the negotiating table, Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani led a march of hatred in the streets of Tehran in which the masses cried, "Death to America! Death to Israel!" If the concessions continued even after these unequivocal calls for the destruction of those conducting the negotiations, it seems there are those who are ready to make an agreement at any price—and this bad agreement is unavoidable.

This morning, Netanyahu charged that the agreement with Iran was "a mistake of historic proportions." One of Netanyahu's own Likud party ministers is said to have confided, "We do not know the details of the deal, but we have been told to oppose it."

Gilad Erdan, one of the central leaders of the Likud party and Israel's minister for internal security (i.e., police forces), called on the leaders of opposition to stop tweeting attacks of the agreement in Hebrew and start making public announcements in English opposing the deal.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely tweeted that this agreement was "an historic surrender of the West to the axis of evil, led by Iran, and Israel will labor as hard as she can to stop approval of the agreement."

Naftali Bennett, Israel's current education minister and head of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) party, stated: "On this day, a nuclear power has been born, and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history."

On the other hand, Shelly Yachimovich, one of the leaders of the Zionist Camp opposition party, sent out a tweet calling on the prime minister to stop attacking the agreement and begin working on improving relations with the United States.

Israel's military and diplomatic correspondents do not seem to share the level of concern expressed by Israeli politicians. Many seem to believe that the deal with Iran is not great, but it is not bad either. These core correspondents regard the fact that the agreement pushes off the existence of an Iranian nuclear program by over 10 years as a significant accomplishment. Ultimately, journalists all ask the question, "What choice was there?"

Speaking on Israeli radio this morning, the military correspondent of the Haaretz newspaper, Amos Harel, maintained that the Israeli military does not see the agreement as a major problem. Considering all the events in the Middle East over the course of the past two years, Israel's strategic position has improved, and Iran can be regarded as just one of the potential threats facing Israel in the future.

It also appears that the average Tel Aviv resident does not seem to share the profound concerns of the government. When I first learned an agreement was going to be announced this morning, I mentioned the impending reality to a friend. The Hebrew word for Greece is Yah-vahn and Iran is E-rahn. My friend thought I was talking about an agreement with Greece. When I enunciated more clearly—Iran—he just shrugged. Another acquaintance, who is more politically connected, asked: "What was the choice?"

I spoke this afternoon via phone with Lapid. "I think this is a bad day for the Jewish people and the Jewish state," he says. "The P5+1 [the international group of nations negotiating with Iran] has moved from a policy of preventing a nuclear Iran to a policy of containment without telling anyone."

He says what is most troubling about the agreement is the issue of verification and the lack of a snap inspection regime. "If Iran was willing to keep the agreement, it would not mind if they had snap inspection." He added, "The strange inspection arrangement in the agreement...will allow them to lie and cheat, which is what they have been doing for the last 20 years."

Surprisingly, Lapid says he will work with members of the U.S. Congress to oppose the agreement. He says he will not go behind anyone's back while doing it and mentions that he plans to use the example of the failure to permit clear snap inspections for why this deal is so poor.

It is clear that Netanyahu also intends to fight to the very end alongside opponents in the U.S. Congress to try to stop the agreement. While some Israeli leaders think this could be self-defeating, it is clear the prime minister has wide support—both within his party and among the opposition—to fight the agreement, whatever the cost.

Historian Marc Schulman is the editor of