US defense chief to arrive in Israel bearing gifts – i24news
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrives in Israel on Sunday bearing gifts, on the heels of an acrimonious conversation between his colleague John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kerry, relating the conversation in an interview with PBS on Friday, said Netanyahu’s claim that a better nuclear deal with Iran could have been obtained was a “fantasy.”
Kerry accused Netanyahu and other detractors of the agreement of failing to present an alternative. “They all say, ‘Oh, why didn’t you crush them with the sanctions?’ I will tell you why. Because they won’t be crushed by sanctions. That’s been proven,” Kerry said, adding that further sanctions would only have alienated the other powers and resulted in a dismantling of the anti-Iran coalition.
“So, there is a lot of fantasy out there about this – quote – ‘better deal,'” the top American diplomat said.
In Thursday’s phone call, Kerry reiterated President Barack Obama’s offer to Netanyahu two days earlier to upgrade Israeli military capabilities, and its security and intelligence cooperation with the United States.
Although Netanyahu is refusing to discuss any such US compensation, believing it would weaken his fight for congressional and American public opinion against the deal with Iran, Israeli defense agencies have various shopping lists in mind. Carter is expected to discuss the wish lists when he meets with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Netanyahu waiting for 2017?
But the Israeli PM may have another reason for refusing to be mollified by Obama Administration offers. “American officials tell me,” wrote one of Israel’s leading columnists, Nahum Barnea, “that Netanyahu is looking ahead, beyond Obama. In January 2017, a new president will enter the White House. Netanyahu believes he will be Republican and sympathetic.”
In his weekly column in the mass circulation Yediot Ahronot, Barnea added: “This new president, Netanyahu believes, will welcome him to the White House as a hero and grant him his every request.”
Corker to Obama: postpone UN vote
With Netanyahu Carter will also discuss Israeli concerns about increased Iranian support for Islamist terrorism following the cash infusions into their coffers with the lifting of sanctions.
The US administration argues that Iran has been funding terror and subversion regardless of the sanctions, in any case.
Iran’s support for Hezbollah and other terror groups, Kerry said, were already forbidden under UN resolutions.
“They’re not allowed to do that, outside even of this agreement. There is a UN resolution that specifically applies to them not being allowed to transfer [arms] to Hezbollah. They are specifically not allowed under another UN resolution to transfer to the Shiite militia in Iraq. They are specifically not allowed to transfer to the Houthis [in Yemen].”
The administration, seeking to pre-empt Republican opposition at home, is expected to present the agreement with Iran to the UN Security Council on Monday so that it can become a formal resolution.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote Obama a letter urging him to postpone the UN vote until after Congress considers the agreement.
Demand for inquiry commission against Netanyahu
Netanyahu, too, is facing tough political opposition. The chairman of the opposition Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid called for the formation of a national commission of inquiry on how the prime minister handled the Iranian issue.
“What Netanyahu did is the biggest failure of Israel’s foreign policy since the establishment of the state. For years, preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon was the center of our foreign policy,” Lapid said.
But coalition chairman Tzahi Hanegbi called the critics in the opposition “provocateurs who only deal in small, petty and cynical politics in order to brand themselves,” and said they should ask themselves what they did to help prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
The Israeli government is sending officials to Washington to campaign against the plan, starting next week with the opposition leader, Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog a bid to show the cross-the-board Israeli dismay over the agreement.
The pro-Israel AIPAC lobby is also pulling out all the stops in an effort to scuttle congressional approval of the deal. Staff members have been ordered to cancel summer vacations.
The other side is also preparing to do battle. On Thursday, Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security adviser, convened a meeting at the White House of Jewish lawmakers in the House of Representatives. About 15 of the 18 attended.
Tony Blinken, the deputy secretary of state, led a call with Jewish organizations on Tuesday just six hours after the deal was announced in Vienna.