Late Sunday, the White House said President Barack Obama had phoned Netanyahu to discuss the deal with Iran, with the two leaders reaffirming “their shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Obama said he understood Netanyahu’s skepticism and promised to “consult closely” with Israel as the talks move forward on a comprehensive solution that would “resolve the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program,” according to the White House.
The differences between the allies stem in part from different perceptions on the extent of the Iranian threat.
To Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran threatens its very survival. Israel points to hostile Iranian rhetoric referring to Israel’s destruction, Iran’s support for militant Arab groups along Israel’s borders, and Iran’s development of long-range missiles capable of reaching the Jewish state.
For Washington, Iran is a distant, albeit pressing, issue, one of a plethora of difficult challenges it is facing at home and abroad. While Obama has repeatedly said he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb, Israel says Iran should not be allowed to even get close to that point.
“The final status should be that Iran cannot remain a threshold nuclear country, that Iran cannot remain one or two steps from the bomb,” Israel’s Cabinet minister for intelligence affairs, Yuval Steinitz, told a gathering of European diplomats.
With stockpiles of enriched uranium, and thousands of advanced centrifuges capable of enriching even more uranium up to weapons grade, Israeli officials say the Iranians are just months away from having the ingredients and expertise to make a bomb. Tehran insists its atomic program is for peaceful purposes.
In the weeks leading to Sunday’s agreement, Israel had demanded that any first-stage deal roll back Iran’s nuclear program.