After carefully studying the agreement between six world powers and Iran to prevent the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon, I have concluded that the nuclear threat to Israel as a result of the deal will be significantly lower for the coming years than it is today.
Let me be clear – this is not a perfect deal. Indeed, the agreement contains fundamental flaws, such as allowing Iran to continue developing advanced centrifuges. But it also contains significant benefits for Israel that have not been sufficiently acknowledged in the debate over the agreement that has raged in my country.
For example, Iran already possesses enough enriched uranium today to produce more than five nuclear bombs. Under the agreement, Iran must ship most of its enriched uranium out of the country. For the next 15 years, it will be allowed to retain only 300 kilograms of low enriched uranium. Since 1.5 tons of highly enriched uranium are required to make just one nuclear bomb, this is a huge positive. Additionally, beyond the verification and inspection mechanisms outlined in the deal, Israeli and U.S. intelligence have robust capabilities that will allow them to detect an Iranian violation if it occurrs.
Those who charge that the agreement increases the nuclear threat to Israel ignore these inconvenient facts. Some perhaps do so out of ignorance because they have not bothered to read the agreement. But others are undoubtedly doing so for political reasons, none more so than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has deliberately misled the public.
Mr. Netanyahu is deceiving the Israeli people by creating the perception that the implementation of the agreement and the removal of the sanctions depend solely upon the upcoming vote in the U.S. Congress. This could not be further from the truth. Already, Britain, France, Russia, China, as well as Germany and the United Nations Security Council itself, have voted to remove the sanctions as soon as the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that Iran has upheld its part of the agreement.
This includes Iran exporting its enriched uranium and shutting down the majority of its centrifuges. For those who might be confused about time frames, these steps are supposed to occur before the end of 2015.
Now we must ask ourselves: What will the United States do? If Congress overrides President Barack Obama and rejects the deal, only American sanctions will remain in place. However, Article 36 of the agreement states that if one of the signatories does not abide by the agreement, Iran is allowed to reject the deal in its entirety and not uphold any of its commitments.
Such a development would pose a double threat to Israel. First, it will create a reality in which most of the sanctions will have already been removed and billions of dollars already flowed into Iran. No doubt some of them will finance Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and other terror organizations in the Middle East and around the world.
Second, Iran will be able to resume its nuclear weapons program without violating any international agreement or resolution, and Israel – whose relationship with the United States has been badly damaged by Netanyahu – will be left isolated and blamed for the collapse of the agreement.
The strict implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement will significantly diminish the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel. It will allow Israel’s defense establishment to focus on preparing the country for any potential confrontation with Hamas or Hezbollah. Moreover, the country will be able to divert resources to prepare proper defenses so the home front is ready to deal with missiles and rockets that will surely rain down upon Israeli cities in any future confrontation.
We should not take this lightly. If Israel had been party to the nuclear negotiations, or if we had been in close contact with the negotiators, we would likely have been able to shape a final agreement that would be far more favorable. However, given the reality we face, Israel would be best served if we objectively examined the situation rather than spreading fear and half-truths, which are nothing more than political tools.
Omer Bar Lev is a Knesset Member representing the Zionist Union.