On Thursday, US President Barack Obama proclaimed that Israel was now a supporter of his nuclear deal with Iran, but on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu corrected him, saying that Israel is more worried about the deal than ever.
President Obama held a press briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday, coping with a revelation that the US flew pallets loaded with $400 million in cash to Iran in an unmarked cargo plane. The payment came simultaneously with the release of four Americans held in Iranian prisons. Iran claimed the payment was ransom for the prisoners, while the White House claimed it was payment to settle a dispute over a failed military equipment deal with the former Shah of Iran dating to the 1970’s.
At the press conference, President Obama claimed that the time since signing the Iran deal has proven that it is an unmitigated success.
“It has been well over a year since the agreement with Iran to stop its nuclear program was signed. And by all accounts it has worked exactly the way we said it was going to work,” said the president. You will recall that there were all these horror stories about how Iran was going to cheat, and this wasn’t going to work, and Iran was going to get $150 billion to finance terrorism and all these kinds of scenarios. And none of them have come to pass,” continued Obama.
The President then claimed that even Israel agreed the Iran deal is successful.
“And it’s not just the assessment of our intelligence community. It’s the assessment of the Israeli military and intelligence community,” he stressed. “The country that was most opposed to this deal that acknowledges this has been a game-changer that Iran has abided by the deal that they no longer have the sort of short term breakout capacity that would allow them to develop nuclear weapons.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Netanyahu jumped in to correct President Obama.
“While Israel’s view on the Iran deal remains unchanged… it firmly believes that Israel has no greater ally than the United States,” said a statement released by Netanyahu’s office.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu looks forward to further strengthening the alliance between Israel and the United States with President Obama and with the next U.S. administration,” it added.
Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) agreed with his party leader.
“I don’t know to which Israelis [Obama] spoke recently,” said Hanegbi, “But I can promise you that the position of the prime minister, the defense minister and of most senior officials in the defense establishment has not changed,” he told The Times of Israel. “The opposite is the case. The time that has elapsed since the deal was signed proved that all our worries that, regrettably, we had before the deal was made, were justified.”
“The Western world stands in line and chases after the Iranian economy. Western companies that for decades stayed away from Iran are now in competition with each other for the rights to enter the Iranian markets,” Hanegbi protested. “And we see that the Iranian regime is getting more legitimacy despite not having changed its policy at ongoing support for radical sources in the Middle East, including terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah.”
“I don’t think there is an Israeli who thinks that this policy of separation of the nuclear issue from the other issues was right,” Hanegbi said.
The Defense Ministry, headed by Avigdor Lieberman (Jewish Home), was even more critical of President Obama’s statement.
“The Israeli defense establishment believes that agreements have value only if they are based on the existing reality, but they have no value if the facts on the ground are the complete opposite of those the deal is based upon,” the Ministry said in a statement.