TEL AVIV – The nuclear agreement reached by Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom), plus Germany, is not about Iran’s capitulation, as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wished. And it is about as imperfect as any negotiated agreement between disputing parties can be. Nonetheless, it creates a solid framework to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons for the next 10-15 years – and that is a very positive development.
Netanyahu, if he wished, could take a lot of the credit for this achievement. Had he not fueled global hysteria over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the crippling international sanctions regime that eventually pushed Iran to a deal might never have been implemented.
But Netanyahu has stubbornly insisted that the agreement is a strategic fiasco, citing its ambiguities in matters such as the mechanism of inspection, the number of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to maintain, and the conditions for re-imposing sanctions if Iran breaches the accord. In pursuing this course, Netanyahu has not only missed the opportunity to claim a major diplomatic victory; he has also reinforced Israel’s international isolation.
Netanyahu is now doing all he can to persuade the US Congress to pass a “resolution of disapproval.” This is highly unlikely to occur, especially in an election year, given that it would require 13 Democratic senators and 48 Democratic representatives to break with US President Barack Obama. Indeed, Netanyahu’s effort is succeeding only in turning Israel into an increasingly divisive partisan issue in US politics. That is a dangerous game: The US has broken with the international community to support Israel in the past; it is less willing to do so today.