Israel has mounted what it terms an “uphill battle” against an agreement that might ease sanctions on the Iranians while leaving them with a nuclear infrastructure with bomb-making potential. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
“This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that,” Netanyahu told his cabinet in Jerusalem as the United States, five other world powers and Iran worked toward a March 31 deadline in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Noting advances made by Iranian-allied forces in Yemen and other Arab countries, Netanyahu accused the Islamic republic of trying to “conquer the entire Middle East” while moving toward nuclearization.
Netanyahu’s campaigning against the nuclear negotiations crested on March 3 with his speech to the US Congress at the invitation of its Republican speaker, John Boehner, that angered President Barack Obama and many fellow Democrats.
The right-wing prime minister, who won a fourth term in a March 17 election, said on Sunday he had spoken to senior US lawmakers from both parties “and heard from them about the steadfast, strong and continuous bipartisan support for Israel”.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli official who has been spearheading efforts to lobby world powers against the Iran deal, voiced cautious hope that the negotiations would collapse as they have in the past.
“We may still have a chance. We are not alone. There are still great doubts in the United States as well as in France, even in England,” Steinitz told Israel Radio, referring to disputes with Iran over the scope of nuclear projects it might be allowed to retain.
But Steinitz said Israel, which is not a party to the talks and whose hardline demands have not been welcomed in Western capitals, was in an “uphill battle”.